OTTAWA – During his address to the Assembly of First Nations on Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau restated his belief that every person in Canada should be able to drink the water that comes out of their tap, but many communities are still waiting.
As of April 24, there were 76 long-term drinking water advisories in effect for public water systems managed by the federal government. A third of these have been in place for over a decade.
This number is down from January, when the number spiked to 91 as the result of the government taking on an additional 250 water systems as federal responsibility. Now, the government is working to manage 1,047 public drinking water systems.
Some First Nation communities are dealing with advisories for more than one water system on their land.
The federal government has pledged to eradicate all drinking water advisories in First Nations communities by March 2021.
At the end of 2017 there were 67 advisories forcing communities to turn to alternative water sources for drinking, bathing and cooking.
Since forming government, the Liberals have lifted 61 drinking water advisories. However, 32 new advisories have been added in that time, according to the Indigenous and Northern Affairs department.
Trudeau referred to the lifted drinking water advisories as one of the "successes that we have already achieved."
On the Liberals' mandate tracker, the promise -- which is wrapped into a category about improving essential Indigenous infrastructure -- is listed as “underway with challenges.”
“Working in partnership with First Nations, the government is taking action to close the gaps between the living conditions of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Every person in Canada -- wherever they may live -- should be able to drink the water that comes out of their tap,” Trudeau said at the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly in Gatineau, Que.
Minster of Indigenous Services Jane Philpott -- who has been mandated to oversee this promise -- also addressed the AFN Wednesday, focusing her remarks on the state of child welfare “humanitarian crisis.”
While her speech did not touch on boil-water advisories, she has continuously affirmed that the government will fulfill its clean drinking water promise.
The government's most recent projection is that by the middle of 2018 there will be 66 advisories left to lift, dropping to 51 in 2019.
“We can do this quickly, or we can do this right, and I know that those two are mutually exclusive. There are things we are moving forward on tangibly and in very meaningful ways, and communities with which we’re moving forward very quickly, but there are others where we will take more time,” said Trudeau, speaking generally about the Liberal’s commitment to develop a new relationship with Indigenous people in Canada.