Water quality and infrastructure continue to be a concern for First Nations in in Ontario. That’s why the Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation (OFNTSC), Health Canada (HC) and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) came together to produce the 2014 First Nations Water Symposium (FNWS), which took place from March 3-5, 2014 in Niagara Falls, ON.
“Water is the life blood of all communities” said Wes Bova, President of the OFNTSC. “There needs to be fundamental changes in the way First Nations deliver their drinking water and waster services to be sustainable. “ Bova also added the First Nation infrastructure requires special care from federal ministries.
Over the two days of the FNWS water plant operators, band administrators, Chiefs, councilors and public works managers took time to discuss the current state of drinking water quality in First Nations. Among the discussions was the emergence of the Ontario First Nations Operating Authority (OFNOA). The OFNOA, which looks to start operating April 1, 2014, is to assist First Nations with delivering safe drinking water in what is deemed high-risk facilities. These high-risk facilities either face human resource, infrastructure or source water issues.
Delegates were broken into two streams to deliver training to water plant operators and providing mangers with information on impending regulations (Bill S-8), Ontario’s water policies and contribution agreement changes while operators trained to use chemical feed systems in water plants. Day two focused source water protection, wastewater regulations, water infrastructure asset management, drinking water solutions for remote communities, and how media portrays First Nations.
Closing out the Symposium was a keynote speech from Maude Barlow, Council of Canadians Chair person who spoke to the delegation about how water is being traded as commodity in the world; and the impending water shortage we will all face should we continue to consume water at this rate. Barlow closed out her speech by conveying that access to clean water is a human right. In total over 200 delegates attended the Symposium.