The Canadian Press reports:
Four Alberta First Nations are suing the federal government over what they call the deplorable state of their drinking water. The court action — filed by the Tsuu T'ina, Ermineskin, Sucker Creek and Blood First Nations — asks Federal Court to force Ottawa to upgrade their water systems, provide continuing support to keep them operating safely and to refund money the bands say the government has saved over the years by not doing so.
The lawsuit argues that Ottawa built substandard water treatment facilities on the four reserves and then didn't maintain them. The results, the claim argues, have encouraged the breakup of First Nations communities, damaged the health of those who live there and slowed economic development. The failure to ensure one of the basic necessities of life is systematic discrimination, the lawsuit alleges.The Canadian Press, "Alberta First Nations sue Ottawa over safety of drinking water. Tsuu T'ina, Ermineskin, Sucker Creek and Blood First Nations involved in lawsuit", The Canadian Press, 16/06/2014, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/alberta-first-nations-sue-ottawa-over-safety-of-drinking-water-1.2677316
The statement of claim filed on Monday states,
Canada has avoided significant expenditures on account of its breaches of fiduciary duty and the obligations imposed by the honour of the Crown. Canada should therefore be required to disgorge the benefits it has received as a result of its misconduct. [It] demeans the position of aboriginals relative to their non-aboriginal neighbours and reinforces the impoverished and disadvantaged position of aboriginal people within Canadian society.
The 31-page statement of claim can be read here.
The federal government has not yet filed a statement of defense.The Canadian Press, "Alberta First Nations sue Ottawa over safety of drinking water. Tsuu T'ina, Ermineskin, Sucker Creek and Blood First Nations involved in lawsuit", The Canadian Press, 16/06/2014, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/alberta-first-nations-sue-ottawa-over-safety-of-drinking-water-1.2677316
Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has stated,
The human right to water and sanitation is being violated right here in Canada. First Nations' homes are 90 percent less likely to have running water than the homes of other Canadians. The United Nations has acknowledged that water and sanitation is a fundamental human right, equal to other rights that are enforceable under international law. The Harper government is bound by an obligation to ensure the peoples of Canada enjoy that right.
Water campaigner Emma Lui says,
The lack of clean and safe drinking water and adequate sanitation in First Nation communities is one of the gravest violations of the human right to water and sanitation. It is tremendously alarming that the Harper government continues to ignore the water and wastewater systems that are at risk. She has noted that the last federal budget allocated $323.4 million over two years to the 'First Nations Water and Wastewater Action Plan', but
this is actually $7.4 million less than what the Conservative government has allocated in past budgets.
The National Assessment of First Nations Water and Wastewater found that 73 per cent of water systems in First Nation reserves are at high or medium risk and pointed out that $1.2 billion was required to meet the federal government’s own protocols for safe water and wastewater.
Brent Patterson, "First Nations go to Federal Court over their right to drinking water", Council of Canadians, 18/06/2014, http://www.canadians.org/blog/first-nations-go-federal-court-over-their-right-drinking-water