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29th March 2021

What’s next?

The Auditor General’s latest scathing report repeated what First Nations allege: that negligence and a lack of oversight from government has led to a ‘lowest bidder’ system for contracting work, often leading to flawed or incomplete maintenance work on water treatment facilities, leading to further deterioration.

With no regulatory regime in place, no new deadlines set, and outdated measures for success, Indigenous communities are left with more questions than answers on what will happen next. Canada’s expressions of sympathy, remorse and reconciliatory vows to do better are repeatedly undone when they commit to building other, less essential projects like Trans Mountain. Ottawa’s choices make them appear out of touch, like they’re content to take one step forward on reconciliation or climate change, and then take ten steps back.

For Neskantaga First Nation (who have gone without clean water for over 25 years), or for the Semiahmoo First Nation in South Surrey, who may finally be near the clean water finish line (after having endured a boil water advisory since 2005) bathing in contaminated water, doing daily chores or raising families without clean water are emergencies. And, while COVID-19 has fundamentally altered our view of public health issues (for better or for worse), it has also shone a light on what Ottawa chooses to prioritize in relief and recovery efforts.

From claiming to take action on climate change while building oil pipelines, to the countless failed commitments to Indigenous peoples, Ottawa’s overpromising needs to stop. It's Canada's apparent inability to keep the drinking water crisis in First Nations as a top priority that has us scratching our heads and wondering why oil and gas projects continue to get the go-ahead, but securing a human right with basic infrastructure keeps getting stalled.

Like land acknowledgements, there’s a fine line between what’s meaningful, and what’s performative.

Eugene Kung - Staff Lawyer
Julia Kidder - Communications & Engagement Specialist