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Jagmeet Singh pledges clean drinking water and funds for all First Nations communities 

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has vouched all measures to provide clean drinking water for First Nations communities that face countless long-term water advisories. In a press meet in Grassy Narrows First Nations along with Chief Rudy Turtle, Singh said as prime minister he would prioritise a “$19 million treatment centre” requested by the community to help those impacted by mercury poisoning.

Singh said, “We would ensure the treatment centre is built, fully funded, and ensure that we’re taking steps not to just clean the water and treat the mercury poisoning that’s affecting people now, but also a commitment to find enough money to ensure there’s no more water advisories and drinking water issues in any Indigenous community across Canada.”

He added that the Liberals have failed to uphold their promises to improve drinking water “by choice.” He added, “When Mr Trudeau can find the money to buy a pipeline, he can find the money to give corporations billions of dollars in tax cuts, the fact is, they could find the money and they’re not doing it.”

The Liberals, after making a campaign promise in 2015, have been in consultations to improve water contamination in Indigenous communities, including the Grassy Narrows region, but hadn’t confirmed a firm path forward before Parliament dissolved in June.

In 2017, the Parliamentary Budget Officer released a report analysing federal spending on water and wastewater infrastructure for First Nations communities. It projected that the government would need to allocate an additional $1.8 billion to resolve contamination on reserves under the mandate of the Ministry of Indigenous and Northern Affairs. Trudeau’s party promised to dish over $739 million in their 2019 budget to eliminate drinking water advisories over two years.

Meanwhile, Singh was extremely vague about finding funds to pay for a policy pledge at the scale he promises. “It’s a firm commitment for justice; this is a firm commitment to remedy an injustice. Why is it that in Indigenous communities it’s okay to have drinking water that’s not clean? We’ve got the technology, we’ve got the money. What we’ve lacked, what Mr Trudeau has lacked, what Mr Harper has lacked, is making it a priority. If we make it a priority we can get it done.”

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