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the Honourable Jim Prentice, PC, QC, MP
Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and
Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians
Update on Water
House of Commons
March 22, 2007
Check against delivery
- Today is World Water Day, and so I am particularly pleased to have this opportunity to provide an update on our Water Action Plan for First Nation communities. This is the first anniversary of the Water Action Plan, initiated last year to ensure that all First Nation communities have access to clean, safe drinking water. Today I had the honour of tabling in Parliament a formal Progress Report on improvements that have been made to water quality on reserve.
- In Budget 2007, Canada's New Government restated its commitment to working with First Nations to ensure that all First Nations residents have access to safe drinking water. Building on the Plan of Action for Drinking Water in First Nations Communities, we will continue to address the needs of communities with high-risk drinking water systems. We will also develop a tough regulatory regime to oversee water quality on reserve, based on the options raised by the report of the Expert Panel on Safe Drinking Water for First Nations.
- We have come far in 12 months. In March, 2006, I announced plans for decisive action to ensure that all First Nations have access to clean, safe drinking water. Since then, we have addressed the most pressing issues. At that time, there were 193 high risk water systems in First Nations communities - now there are 97. In one year, we have cut the number of high risk communities in half.
- Of the 21 communities identified as a priority last March, seven have addressed critical issues such as Drinking Water Advisories or high risk ranking. Fourteen communities continue to address these issues. Remedial action plans have been created for each of the 21.
- A 24-hour hotline and emergency support is now available to all First Nations communities, to ensure they have constant access to technical support and assistance.
- What's more, the Circuit Rider Training Program has been expanded and is now available to all First Nations communities, to ensure mandatory training and oversight of water systems by certified operators.
- I'm also very pleased that eight water treatment plants have been opened in the past year, in Alberta, Quebec, and Ontario.
- Canada's New Government recognizes the requirement for resources to address the drinking water challenges in First Nations communities. And so Budget 2006 secured $60 million over two years to help us reach our objectives as set out in the Water Action Plan.
- We have committed to making progress on this important issue. We are getting results and we will continue to do so.