[Member spoke in aboriginal language]
Mr. Speaker, I thank you for this opportunity to speak about an issue that is very important to me, and that is water. Bill C-326 seeks to amend the Department of Health Act so that we may set out guidelines respecting drinking water.
This bill seeks to require the department to ensure that existing drinking water standards in member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development are upheld and to make any necessary recommendations for Canada in that regard. I wonder why only OECD countries are mentioned. I think that there is also reason to consider including members of the intergovernmental economic organization, namely the World Health Organization. I think we might be able to add them in the future.
When we talk about the major challenges of our time on this planet, when it comes to climate change, protecting the environment, or developing our natural resources around the world, we often forget one aspect that is essential to human survival on earth: water.
I do not know if my colleagues have had the chance to fly over the northern regions of our country. I do almost every week since I have the privilege of representing one of the largest ridings in the country, which covers 54% of Quebec. I like saying that half of Quebec listens to me when I speak. This resource we call water, I see it every time I fly over my riding.
It is important to remember every day that access to drinking water for humans, for Canadians, is a fundamental right. In fact, enforcing this right is part of the mandate of the institution we are all a part of because, which is a public policy mandate. It is important to remember that. We have such an abundance of fresh water in Canada that we must find ways to protect this resource.
During the last election, the Prime Minister of Canada promised to end drinking water advisories in indigenous communities within five years. However, anyone who has ever been in an indigenous community knows that water treatment facilities there are in terrible condition. The promise to fix everything within five years did not take into account the complexity of such an endeavour. There is no easy solution to this problem, a stark reality faced by indigenous communities in a country like Canada. Canada is one of the richest countries on the planet, but its first peoples' living conditions, in many cases, are akin to fourth world conditions.
Members do not need to take my word for it; the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis quoted a report from the David Suzuki Foundation that confirms exactly what I am saying, which is that the government is not on track to keep its promise to solve this issue within five years.
That is why I said that that was not a reasonable timeframe. As someone across the way pointed out, the promised investments need to be paid out. After the 2015 election, there were 159 boil water advisories and today there are 172. Despite investments, why is the situation worse now than in 2015, when this government first came to power? I have an answer to that, which I will come back to later.
One thing that people need to understand about indigenous communities is that there is no legislative or regulatory framework that guarantees access to clean drinking water in those communities. As strange as that sounds, it is true. Of course, the previous government passed the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, but there is no obligation to implement the provisions of that act, given the complexity of the situation, including training people to maintain the facilities that exist in those communities. These things are so complicated that it would have been a long shot to think that the Liberals could keep their election promise from 2015 within the timeframe they had set, unfortunately.
We need to set a number of long-term objectives. We need to have standards similar to those that exist in other countries, for example, standards governing the maximum allowed concentration of microbiological, physical, chemical, and radiological contaminants. Canadians have a right to that as a country. We need to take urgent action to put an end to the boil water advisories in first nations communities. That must be done in co-operation and partnership with indigenous people, not imposed on them as the previous law sought to do. As I have been saying all along, access to clean drinking water is a fundamental right. We could draw from the standards that exist elsewhere, for example, in the European Union, the United States, and Australia.
Earlier, it was said that budget 2016 allocated $1.8 billion for infrastructure. As the member for Lac-Saint-Louis said, money has been allocated. I will admit that that is true.
However, the fact that this is still a problem should indicate that those investments were not enough. There is not enough money. In fact, that additional funding represents less than half of what Neegan Burnside estimates is necessary to put an end to the boil water advisories.
I think I can quote Clayton Leonard here, the lawyer that represented Alberta first nations in this matter:
How many times do you get to reannounce the same amount of money? If you spent $2 billion, and then you find that 73% of first nations still face serious drinking water issues, it's a pretty clear indication it's not enough.
This is not only about boil water advisories, although that is what we hear about most often. A number of communities are under do not consume orders, including Potlotek, Kitigan Zibi in Quebec, Bearskin in Ontario, and Wahta and Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation in Saskatchewan.
We need to address this problem for all Canadians, but we must never forget this country's first nations.