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First Nations water authority set to take control of service to Atlantic reserves

Tuesday, June 23, 2020 @ 3:36 PM | By Terry Davidson

Ottawa has signed a “milestone” agreement that puts a First Nations water authority on the path to controlling water services for reservations in Atlantic Canada.

On June 23, the government of Canada announced “the signing of a framework agreement that creates a path for the transfer of water and wastewater services … from Indigenous Services Canada (ISC)” to the Atlantic First Nations Water Authority (AFNWA).  

Once the process is completed, the AFNWA will have responsibility “over the control and management” of water services to 15 First Nations communities on the east coast.

“The framework agreement represents a key milestone for this innovative initiative as the AFNWA continues to work towards full autonomous operations by Spring 2022,” states a government news release.

“Once the transfer is complete, the AFNWA will assume responsibility and liability for water and wastewater services to over 4,500 households and businesses on reserves, which represents approximately 60 [per cent] of First Nations that live on reserves in Atlantic Canada.”

Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller called it “an important step to renew the relationship with Indigenous peoples by putting control of essential services delivery rightly into the hands of First Nations.”

“This First Nations-led initiative directly supports the advancement of self-determination for communities while strengthening control and management of water and wastewater infrastructure on reserves,” said Miller.

Interim AFNWA CEO Carl Yates said it is “a unique opportunity for First Nations to take control of a service critical to the social, economic and environmental well-being of their communities.”

According to the government release, the AFNWA, which was formally established in 2018, will support the communities in upgrading, managing and maintaining their services.  

The release notes that while there are no long-term drinking water advisories on public systems on reserves in Atlantic Canada, “work continues across the region to maintain and update water infrastructure to improve water quality and prevent future drinking water advisories.”