For the first time since 1997, Shoal Lake 40, a First Nation’s community on the shores of Shoal Lake Canada, obtained a treated water supply on 15th September. This ends the community’s boil water advisory in place since 1997 and reduces the reliance on bottled water. Following the construction of a road linking the community to the trans-Canada highway system in 2019, the construction of a $25.6 Million USD water treatment facility has been completed.
The isolated location of many of Canada’s indigenous communities has presented logistical challenges to the provision of safely managed drinking water, and many communities have faced the risks associated with pathogens and chemical contaminants in their water sources.
In 2015, Canadian Premier Justin Trudeau included a pledge to provide safely managed drinking water to more than 100 indigenous communities in his electoral campaign. Once elected, Trudeau’s government allocated more than $1.6 Billion USD to the provision of water to communities with long term water advisories. This resulted in a rapid rollout of infrastructure and the increase in the lifting of advisories from 4 communities in 2015 to 38 in 2018.
In 2021, so far, 11 advisories have been lifted. However, ageing infrastructure, flooding and intermittent problems with water treatment has led to an average of 9 advisories being added every year since 2015. Several indigenous communities have united to file national level class action lawsuits against the government of Canada for its failure to address long term drinking water advisories. This included all members of First Nations whose communities had been subject to a drinking water advisory for longer than one calendar year since November 1995. In July 2021, the Canadian government agreed to settle, pending court approval, on terms that include compensation for the costs of purchasing drinking water and the allocation of extra funds to the rollout or upgrading of water supply infrastructure in reserves.