OTTAWA, Nov. 1, 2013 /CNW/ - The Honourable Bernard Valcourt, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, announced the coming into force today of the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act.
"Improving water quality in First Nation communities is a priority for our Government and I am extremely pleased that this important Act is coming into force today," said Minister Valcourt. "Our Government will continue working with First Nations towards our shared goal of ensuring that First Nations have the same access to safe, clean drinking water in their communities as all other Canadians."
"Water continues to be a very important public safety issue for all Canadians," said Chief Dean Vicaire of the Listuguj Mi'gmaq First Nation and Atlantic Policy Congress Co-Chair. "Water will always be fundamentally important to all our First Nation communities and people. The legislation helps clearly focus attention on this issue and on the need for speedy action to ensure all our communities have safe drinking water."
"I am very pleased that the ongoing work on the development of detailed regulations for a clear framework is proceeding in partnership with the federal government," added Chief Deborah Robinson of the Acadia First Nation and Atlantic Policy Congress Co-Chair. "This is something that we have been asking for in the Atlantic for years to ensure all our First Nations have safe drinking water."
"This bill is the product of engagement with First Nations over the past seven years and will make it possible for our Government to work with First Nations and other stakeholders to develop regulations comparable to those that safeguard drinking water elsewhere in Canada," added Minister Valcourt. "We will continue to work closely with First Nations and provincial and territorial governments, and will be consulting widely as we develop future federal regulations."
Regulations supporting the Act are being developed on a region-by-region basis and will be phased in over time. This will give First Nations and the Government the time necessary to bring infrastructure and capacity to the level required to meet the regulations.
The Act, which received Royal Assent in June 2013, supports the Government's long-term strategy to improve water quality for First Nation communities. Between 2006 and 2014 the Government will have invested about $3 billion to support First Nation communities in managing water and wastewater infrastructure and in related public health activities.
Between 2006 and 2012, 177 government-funded major water and wastewater projects were completed by 152 First Nations (a major project is one that costs over $1.5 million). Total Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada investment in these projects was $846.6 million. In 2011-2012, 402 major and minor First Nation water and wastewater infrastructure projects were started, and 32 major capital projects to build or significantly upgrade water and waste systems were completed.
"We have made significant achievements in helping First Nation communities access reliable drinking water," added Minister Valcourt. "This new Act will allow us to continue making good progress in partnership with First Nations."
This statement is also available on the Internet at www.aandc.gc.ca.
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SOURCE Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada