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Water bill watered down

First Nations throughout the country are facing a water crisis. More than 100 of Canada’s 615 First Nations must boil their drinking water.

Nearly half of the 10,000 citizens of Island Lake in Manitoba do not have any running water at all.

Bill S-11, Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, was pushed through Senate earlier this year. It sounds good on the surface but the fact it went through Senate is significant — only bills that go through the House of Commons have any financial backing.

The bill gives the federal government authority to override treaty rights, jurisdiction, and force First Nations into agreements with third-party management to take over water systems.

But most importantly the bill results in no liability for the federal government. With no money, no jurisdiction and no support, if Bill S-11 is passed, First Nations would take the responsibility and liability for safe drinking water in their communities without the resources to do it.

This is clearly the case of the federal government creating legislation to make it look like they are taking action. There are other problems with the bill but what it all boils down to is that many First Nations people in this province do not have running water at all and this, along with no safe place to dispose of sewage, is costing all of us.

Lack of running water in Island Lake may very easily be linked to health issues, as was seen during the H1N1 crisis last year.

First Nations people have double the rate of hospitalization of other Manitobans. If that could be brought down to par, the province would save $3.8 billion in the next 20 years. More importantly, we could save unnecessary suffering and death in our own province if the federal government joined the province to construct an all-season road so the Island Lake communities could get the much needed materials required to improve their infrastructure and their lives.

Our communities need running water now. We need a bill that commits the federal government to ensure that we have water and sewage systems. The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has developed a postcard that you can send to your MP to call on the federal government to recognize that clean water is a human right.

To sign an online petition go to our web site at <a href="http://www.manitobachiefs.com">www.manitobachiefs.com</a> or join our facebook group, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

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