Alberta Budget 2017: $100M committed for clean drinking water on First Nations

File: Tap water fills a glass. Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images

The Grand Chief of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations is pleased with the Alberta government’s commitment to ensure all First Nations across the province have access to safe drinking water.

“I’m very, very encouraged. I think it’s a very important step in terms of providing access to clean water,” Willie Littlechild said Thursday.

READ MORE: First Nations ‘living in Third World conditions’ as communities endure water advisories

In Thursday’s provincial budget, Finance Minister Joe Ceci announced the province will spend $100 million over the next four years to integrate drinking-water systems with federally supported water systems. The goal is to bring clean, reliable drinking water to all First Nations across the province.

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“By building these links between communities, we can end the long-standing and shameful number of boil water advisories on First Nations,” Ceci said.

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There are currently 13 Alberta First Nations under boil water advisories and one under a do not consume advisory.

Littlechild, who lives in Maskwacis, said he’s had to buy water for 20 years.

“We’ve got arsenic in our water. So it’s a very important issue in terms of the positive impact it’ll have in our communities,” he said. “The issue of clean drinking water has moved far beyond being a mere topic of discussion to a critical problem for our First Nations.”

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Indigenous Affairs Minister Richard Feehan said too many First Nations communities have waited far too long for access to dependable, clean drinking water.

The provincial funding is part of a partnership with the federal government. In 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government committed to end long-term water advisories on reserves across Canada within five years.

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