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

This Crescent Beach home, located at 12505 22 Ave., was subject of a police search warrant June 18. (Google image)
Civil Forfeiture Office alleges Crescent Beach home used to launder money

Court documents request the home, and $85,000 to be turned over to the government

Surrey firefighters battle a house fire near the 70A Avenue and 126A Street intersection early Sunday morning. According to a witness, it appears that the occupants were able to get out without injury. (Shane MacKichan photos)
PHOTOS: Fire causes extensive damage to Surrey home

Occupants able to escape without injury: witness

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

An animated Gordie Hogg introduces his 'Community Connections' videos. (YouTube screenshot)
Community Connections: Gordie Hogg speaks with Glenn Rose

Former mayor, MP began posting conversations on YouTube in June

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Mounties looking for teen boy ‘unlawfully at large’ from Riverview psychiatric hospital

Nolan Godron left the hospital, located at 2721 Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam, without consent on Saturday

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Most Read