Members of the Saik’uz First Nation can drop by the band office to fill out forms for compensation under the First Nations Drinking Water Settlement after the claims period opened early this month.
Saik’uz First Nation Chief Priscilla Mueller noted there are First Nation communities across Canada that never had potable water and still don’t to this day.
“Saik’uz had one of the best tasting waters in the province and to be on a water advisory for almost a year was tough. We had to purchase fresh water for each home and have it delivered on a weekly basis,” Mueller said.
“It’s a privilege to be able to drink water right from your tap and not worry about it being contaminated or that you will get sick from it.”
The settlement agreement recognizes that all First Nations “deserve reliable access” to safe drinking water and includes $1.5 billion in compensation for those who were deprived of it.
It also includes $400 million for a First Nations economic and cultural restoration fund.
In 2015 the Trudeau Liberals campaigned on the promise to end all long-term drinking water advisories in First Nations communities by 2020 — but didn’t deliver on that commitment.
Although 132 long-term drinking water advisories have been lifted since 2015 this compensation will not bring clean drinking water to the 28 communities where 33 long-term advisories remained in effect as of May, 2022.
Minister of Indigenous Services Patty Hajdu called the agreement “a significant milestone for First Nations” who have fought for the same access to clean water that other communities in Canada have.
“By acknowledging past harms and making the necessary investments in infrastructure, operations and maintenance, we can do the important work of rebuilding trust so that no future generation will face the same harms ever again.”
The settlement will compensate certain members of First Nations that experienced long-term drinking water advisories that lasted for a year or longer, anytime between November 20, 1995 and June 20, 2022.
Saik’uz First Nation is on the list of eligible communities having experienced a water quality advisory beginning in 2021 according to the First Nations Health Authority.
Specific amounts will depend on the nature of the advisory, the length of residency and the remoteness of the First Nations Lands on which they lived.
Nadleh Whut’en, Tl’azt’en, Stellat’en, Wet’suwet’en and many other Nations are also a part of the settlement.
A claim form can be submitted until March 7, 2023. After the claims period ends the administrator will pay eligible claims for compensation. Members living further away can fill out the forms online at firstnationsdrinkingwater.ca