Developing laws and regulations for First Nations drinking water and wastewater: engagement 2022 to 2023
Engagement on legislative proposal to support safe, reliable drinking water and wastewater infrastructure in First Nations communities.
Current status: closed
On July 21, 2023, Canada shared an updated consultation draft of a legislative proposal with First Nations rights-holders and First Nation organizations for further feedback by September 8, 2023.
On this page
The need for a new law
First Nations communities do not have legally enforceable safe drinking water protections comparable to what's in place in provinces and territories.
In 2013, the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act was created to support the development of federal regulations to support First Nations' access to clean, reliable drinking water and effective treatment of wastewater. However, First Nations voiced concerns about this legislation during ongoing engagement since 2018, saying the law was not effective.
In response to these concerns, and aligned with the Safe Drinking Water Class Action Settlement Agreement, the Government of Canada repealed the 2013 Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act on June 23, 2022. The Government of Canada is committed to developing and introducing new First Nations drinking water and wastewater legislation, in consultation with First Nations.
Following repeal of the 2013 Act, the Government of Canada enhanced engagement with First Nations rights holders to advance the development of a legislative proposal for First Nations drinking water and wastewater. Engagement on the initial consultation draftFootnote 1 of the legislative proposal closed on April 23, 2023.
Following engagement on the initial consultation draft of the legislative proposal and the thorough feedback provided by partners, work continues to explore how the proposal can be strengthened to the best of the Minister's ability to better reflect the needs and priorities of First Nations. In the spirit of ensuring an ongoing dialogue on new proposed First Nations drinking water and wastewater legislation, Indigenous Services Canada invited additional comments and feedback on the updated consultation draft until September 8, 2023.
The Government of Canada's engagement approach includes:
- advancing development of a legislative proposal for drinking water and wastewater with the Assembly of First Nations
- ongoing direct engagement with First Nations rights holders, Modern Treaty and Self Governing Nations, including group-based sessions and individual sessions
- engaging provinces and territories on source water protection to inform the development of the legislative proposal
First Nations governments and citizens must be able to shape this work and assess if it will meet their needs.
How to participate
Engagement is an ongoing process and we are committed to continuing to work with partners during the development, introduction and implementation of new proposed First Nations drinking water and wastewater legislation.
First Nations and First Nations organizations can share their views on new First Nations drinking water and wastewater legislation, send questions or get more information about engagement opportunities by contacting us.
When and where
Engagement is ongoing. Sessions are scheduled on-demand and subject to the availability of participants.
Engagement can take place virtually or in-person, depending on a First Nation's preference.
What we heard
The 2013 Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act allowed for the development of federal regulations to support First Nations' access to clean, reliable drinking water and effective treatment of wastewater. First Nations shared several concerns with the 2013 Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, including:
- lack of adequate, predictable and sustainable funding
- lack of recognition of Aboriginal rights
- potential infringement of Aboriginal and treaty rights
- lack of protection of source water
- insufficient engagement on issues that directly affect First Nations
The Government of Canada repealed the 2013 Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act on June 23, 2022. Aligned with the Safe Drinking Water Class Action Settlement Agreement, the Government of Canada is committed to making all reasonable efforts to develop and introduce proposed new First Nations drinking water and wastewater legislation, in consultation with First Nations. The deadline was December 31, 2022.
Acknowledging that the timeline was challenging , discussions are ongoing. The Settlement Agreement provides an opportunity for meaningful change aimed at addressing and preventing First Nations water infrastructure gaps and building a sustainable foundation for future generations.
Indigenous Services Canada continues to work closely with First Nations and First Nations organizations to develop and introduce new proposed First Nations drinking water and wastewater legislation as soon as possible.
Throughout ongoing engagement, First Nations continue to highlight the following key priorities:
- recognition of rights
- sustainable funding for drinking water and wastewater services
- protection of source water
- ongoing engagement on water issues that affect First Nations
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Indigenous Services Canada
Legislation, Engagement and Regulations
Community Infrastructure Branch
10 rue Wellington
Gatineau, QC K1A 0H4
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- Capital Facilities and Maintenance Program
- Ending long-term drinking water advisories
- Safe drinking water for First Nations legislation: First Nations-led engagement 2019
- Wastewater in First Nations communities
- What we heard about the review of The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act
- United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
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