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Aboriginal Law, Public Health, Water, First Nations, Legislation, Recommendations


In January 2009, the federal government issued a discussion paper that details its preferred regulatory route for enabling a legislative framework. This route is to referentially incorporate provincial legislation regarding operational standards through a framework statute, and then develop the details of the regime through regulations to be developed in consultation with First Nations over the next few years. Importantly, the opening sentence of the discussion paper's executive summary expressly connects water and public health. It reads: "The provision of safe drinking water and the effective treatment of wastewater are critical in ensuring the health and safety of First Nations people and the protection of source water on First Nation lands. Below I sketch out the current conditions and how the federal proposal suggests engaging these conditions. I conclude that although regulated standards will undoubtedly bring about improvements to public health, the proposal misses some key issues. One major failing is that the proposed regime does not address off-reserve source water protection. I suggest routes to amend this issue.