Residents of a small Saskatchewan town can drink the water coming out of their taps for the first time in nearly nine years thanks to a new water treatment plant. Craik, population 400, has been facing a boil water advisory since August 2010, when the province found its old plant didn’t meet minimum disinfection standards. “Sometimes it was yellow and sometimes it was brown and sometimes there was dirt in it,” one resident recalled.
The construction of a modest road into a small community wouldn't usually get a full ground-breaking photo op, complete with gold-coloured shovels and government officials. But for the Semiahmoo First Nation, the road work is just the first step toward new water infrastructure that will end the community's 15-year permanent boil water advisory. "I'm waiting for a day to be able to turn on a tap and drink a glass of water," said Harley Chappell, Semiahmoo's elected chief. "That's the goal."
There is also concern the changes that were made that allowed some of the advisories to be lifted were just temporary fixes. There are long-term, structural problems with the water treatment systems in many Indigenous communities that have not been addressed. Many of these places lack the proper equipment needed to remedy the operational issues with which they are confronted.
Today, Randy Boissonnault, Member of Parliament for Edmonton Centre, on behalf of the Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Indigenous Services, visited Kehewin Cree Nation and congratulated Chief Brenda Vanguardand the entire community on the official sod turning for their new water treatment system. This new water treatment system is critical to the community's efforts to lift their long-term drinking water advisory.
Tellingly, Ms. Philpott publicly declared last fall that her department’s mandate is to make itself “obsolete” by empowering Indigenous groups to gain long-asked-for independence in providing services to their own communities. It’s clear that the goal is to assist First Nations to expand their role in operating and maintaining their own water systems.