EDITORIAL: Water rights

It is almost unimaginable that residents in a populous area of the Lower Mainland could be without a reliable source of safe drinking water.

It is almost unimaginable that residents in a populous area of the Lower Mainland could be without a reliable source of safe drinking water.

Yet this is what is happening – and has been happening for a long time – for people who live on the Semiahmoo First Nation reserve.

The current situation, in which the reserve’s water supplier, the City of White Rock, has put forward an 18-month deadline to turning off the water altogether – as a means, according to Mayor Wayne Baldwin, of jump-starting stalled negotiations over a contentious city-owned pump station on reserve land – is yet another reminder that there are still residents in our community who don’t even have the luxury of mains-connected service.

On the eastern end of Beach Avenue, where White Rock’s pipes don’t reach, some residents truck in water for showering and laundry uses, and buy bottled water for drinking and cooking. Even those on the existing water service have had a boil-water advisory for more than a decade.

The SFN situation is far from unique. In June, a report from the international Human Rights Watch called for urgent steps to be taken by provincial and federal authorities to resolve more than 100 boil-water advisories in First Nations communities across Canada.

The band – seeing White Rock’s Aug. 29 notice as an ultimatum – have been exploring the possibility of connecting to Surrey’s water supply. That could be done within a year, Surrey’s utilities manager says, but at a cost of millions.

Lost in all the wrangling, of course, are residents who have been woefully underserved for years. Critics of the band’s leaders – and their high salaries that made headlines more than a year ago – will not be slow to point accusing fingers in that direction. But that’s only one issue in a problem that should also involve – in a just society – SFN’s municipal and regional neighbour and federal authorities, and which should, by rights, have been fixed decades ago.

The author of the Human Rights Watch report makes the point that First Nations don’t have the same legal protections to ensure safe water as Canadians living off-reserve. And while Canada joined the international consensus on the right to water at the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, it still has no comprehensive national water law – only a net of varying provincial policies.

In pre-election campaigning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to end First Nations boil-water advisories within five years. That’s five years too long. It’s time for decisive action on this fundamental right – not the prolonging of local squabbles.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wanted Burnaby man arrested in White Rock

34-year-old facing 15 charges, including sexual assault

PHOTOS: South Surrey veteran honoured by South Korea as Ambassador for Peace

Medal presented to Donald McClellan an ‘expression of gratitude’ for service during Korean War

Surrey officer-impersonation scam continues ‘almost daily’

Police reiterate warning that demands for Bitcoin in exchange for waived charges are fraudulent

North Delta yoga studio’s Fridays at the Farm to benefit local animal sanctuary

The outdoor four-class series will benefit Perfect Pastures Animal Sanctuary in Ladner

Jamie Bacon pleads guilty to charge in Surrey Six case

The plea brings an end to a complex legal case that has spanned more than a decade

Horgan says B.C. restart making gains as more people come out of their homes

B.C. announced the easing of more restrictions on businesses, recreation and travel last month

Conservatives say police should be called into investigate WE charity scandal

Trudeau is already under investigation by the ethics commissioner for potential conflict of interest

Amber Alert continues for missing Quebec girls, 6 and 11, and their father

Police issued the alert for Norah Carpentier, 11, and Romy Carpentier, 6, from Levis, Que.

Limit police access to lethal weapons in Indigenous communities: Justice Summit

Grassroots-organized National Indigenous Justice Summit was a free-to-attend two-day videoconference

Mayors welcome rideshare expansion to eastern Lower Mainland

As of Thursday, Lyft is now offering service throughout Metro Vancouver

Canadian policing organization calls for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police want policing focus of opioid crisis to be replaced with a health one

Filing deadline in RCMP sexual-harassment class-action extended due to COVID-19

Plaintiffs now have until January 2021 to submit claims for up to $222,000

Hefty undeclared driver charges piling up, ICBC warns customers

Average extra penalty $2,971 after an at-fault accident

Survey, hotline launched amid probe into racist blood-alcohol guessing game at B.C. hospital

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has been appointed to lead an investigation by Health Minister Adrian Dix

Most Read

l -->