Canada to pay First Nations CAN$8 billion in drinking water deal
Government failed to provide clean water to Indigenous peoples
By Barry Ellsworth
The Canadian government announced Friday it reached a tentative settlement of CAN$8 billion ($6.4 billion) for failing to provide clean drinking water to First Nations reserves.
The deal, which must wait for court approval, involves compensation for about 142,000 individuals, members of 258 First Nations tribes, as well as another 128 First Nations.
The announcement was made by federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller at a news conference.
Others presents were Curve Lake First Nation Chief Emily Whetung, Tataskweyak Cree Nation Chief Doreen Spence and Neskantaga First Nation Chief Wayne Moonias.
Many First Nations reserves have had no safe drinking water for decades and a class-action suit was filed claiming negligence and a breach of the Charter of Rights by the Canadian government. The settlement will end any court battle, if approved.
"We don't want to be in court," said Miller. "We've said that time and time again. It's a lot of money, yes, but it reflects a commitment to get water into a community that hasn't been done up until now."
The class-action suit was filed because Canada failed to live up to its agreed target of providing clean drinking water on reserves by March 30, 2021. Some of the reserves did get clean water by that date, but another 32 tribes are still forced to truck in drinking water.
Chief Whetung said the deal with the government is good for First Nations.
"I think the total agreement really satisfies the need of First Nations across Canada," she told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. "It was designed to do that, and specifically ensure that every community gets access to clean water. There's a recognition that individuals have suffered harms from not having access to clean water."
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