Okanagan Indian Band suing feds for access to clean water

Canadian government not serious about safe drinking water for First Nations communities, Chief says

The Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB) has filed a suit on Thursday, Aug. 15, in Federal Court against the federal government over its failure to ensure the safety of drinking water.

“The federal government has put the lives of our people at risk,” Okanagan Chief Byron Louis said.

The water systems, which were constructed in the 1970s according to standards outlined by Indian Affairs Canada, rely on groundwater wells that supply untreated water to hundreds of residents.

The wastewater from the affected homes goes into septic fields which may be contaminating groundwater.

READ MORE: Vernon mountain biking advocacy group wins provincial volunteer award

READ MORE: More downtime announced for Tolko Armstrong, Lumby divisions

All of the drinking water systems were ranked an eight out of 10 by an expert assessment commissioned by the government in 2010. It found fecal coliforms as a significant source of contamination. In 2017, a joint water management study estimated the upgrades would cost around $45 million.

The OKIB said at present, the largest drinking water system is under a “do not consume” order.

OKIB has worked in collaboration with the federal government to find a solution, but after nine years the government has only upgraded one of seven systems in the OKIB territory.

“We have lost faith in a system that I would characterize as negligent,” Chief Byron Louis said. “We are stuck in limbo between federal policy that underfunds our system and provincial infrastructure resources we cannot access.”

“The federal government is simply not serious about safe drinking water for First Nations communities,” he said. “We have to act. We are concerned that it will take a crisis like death or sickness from contamination before the federal government takes any action.”

The suit seeks confirmation that First Nations communities have the same access to safe, clean drinking water as the rest of Canada—compelling the federal government to ensure water infrastructure complies to safety standards.

“This is unacceptable in a developed country,” Chief Louis said. “If you can turn on the tap in Kelowna and not worry the water is safe, it should be the same in our community.”

“It’s a health and equality issue—one that the federal government can’t ignore any longer,” he said.

READ MORE: Bears in South Okanagan searching for food before hibernating


@caitleerach
Caitlin.clow@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

The Okanagan Indian Band has filed a law suit against the federal government after years of urging leaders to improve outdated infrastructure and gain access to clean drinking water. (files)

Just Posted

100 Homes Penticton gets a new name after year of success

The campaign, run by the United Way South Okanagan, housed an additional 130 people in 2019

Penticton council urged to consider finding student housing options

Students with the Okanagan College Penticton campus presented at the regular meeting on Oct. 15

Is your business ready for when disaster strikes? Find out at FutureBiz Penticton 2019

The event for entrepreneurs to learn and connect returns for its second year on Dec. 4

Shinedown pumped to return to Penticton

The metal band stops at the South Okanagan Events Centre on Oct. 15

Celtic Illusion coming to Penticton in 2020

The show features contemporary Irish dance paired with grand illusions and magic

Election 2019: Connie Denesiuk – Liberal Party candidate for South Okanagan – West Kootenay

Connie Denesiuk is running for the Liberal Party in the South Okanagan – West Kootenay riding

Potent power play paces Canucks to 5-1 win over Detroit

Miller nets a pair as Vancouver wins third straight

Okanagan ski hills highlighted on website’s ‘most affordable’ list

HomeToGo looks at rentals, lift passes, accommodations and food to compile list of Top 50

UPDATE: British couple vacationing in Vancouver detained in U.S. after crossing border

CBP claims individuals were denied travel authorization, crossing was deliberate

After losing two baby boys, B.C. parents hope to cut through the taboo of infant death

Oct. 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day in B.C.

Quantum 1 cannabis retailer scheduled to open in Similkameen Nov. 1

Owner Russ Rossi promises modern shopping experience

Cheating husband sues mistress for gifted ring after wife learns about affair

The husband gave his mistress $1,000 to buy herself a ring in December 2017

B.C. boosts legal aid funding in new payment contract

‘Duty counsel’ service restored in some communities, David Eby says

Okanagan man killed in head-on collision on Highway 1 near Salmon Arm

Police say 21-year-old died at scene after pickup truck collided with transport trailer

Most Read