Canada to pay billions to Indigenous groups for the decades many have lived with dirty water

Government will give $1.5bn in compensation for individuals deprived of clean drinking water

<p>Canada has approved a settlement worth billions to settle a class-action litigation related to safe drinking water in First Nation communities.</p>

Canada has approved a settlement worth billions to settle a class-action litigation related to safe drinking water in First Nation communities.

Canada has approved an agreement worth billions to settle a class-action litigation related to safe drinking water in First Nations communities.

In a statement on Thursday, the Canadian government’s Indigenous Services Canada announced that the Federal Court and the Court of Queen’s Bench of Manitoba approved a joint decision on the settlement.

The decision follows the announcement of the terms of the settlement in July.

Under the settlement, the government will give $1.5bn in compensation for individuals deprived of clean drinking water. It also promised the creation of a $400m First Nation Economic and Cultural Restoration and the creation of a First Nations Advisory Committee on Safe Drinking Water.

In addition, at least $6bn has been promised to support reliable access to safe drinking water on reserves.

The government also vowed to a renewed commitment to Canada’s Action Plan for the lifting of all long-term drinking water advisories and support for First Nations to develop their own safe drinking water by-laws and initiatives

It has also announced the planned modernisation of Canada’s First Nations drinking water legislation.

The settlement comes after legal action was brought against the government in November 2019 on behalf of all members of First Nations and residents that did not have access to clean drinking water.

The legal action was led by Tataskweyak Cree Nation, Curve Lake First Nation and Neskantaga First Nation who said the reserves had water advisory for at least one year since 1995.

While Canada is one of the most water-rich nations in the world, the government has issued 51 advisories against drinking water tainted by industrial contaminants, bacteria or parasites in 32 communities across the country, reported The Guardian.

Earlier the government had eliminated advisories in more than 70 communities but all communities are yet to have access to safe drinking water as advisories remain on reserves.

On Thursday, the government announced that it “will continue to work with all First Nations, including Tataskweyak Cree Nation, Curve Lake First Nation and Neskantaga First Nation, to address water concerns,” it said in its statement.

“Together, we will develop sustainable, long-term solutions so that future generations do not have to worry about the safety of their drinking water,” the statement added.

When the deal was before court, Emily Whetung, chief of Curve Lake First Nation in southern Ontario and one of three lead plaintiffs said to APTN that the while the settlement is welcome, it is only “small stepping stone”.

“This is great progress but it’s just a small stepping stone to ensuring that every status Indian living on an Indian reserve has access to clean drinking water,” she said.

“It becomes less and less important what the political promises are and it becomes more and more important that we have the ability to enforce real, meaningful access to clean drinking water,” Ms Whetung added.

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