Blazing a trail: First Nations to control their water delivery services in Atlantic Canada

Logo of the Atlantic First Nations Water Authority Inc.

In the first-ever agreement of its kind, the Atlantic First Nations Water Authority (AFNWA) will take full control of water and wastewater service delivery to up to 17 First Nations in 2022.

The AFNWA and Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) signed the historic agreement on June 23, 2020. The AFNWA will become the first Indigenous-led water authority in Canada. It will support First Nations communities in Atlantic Canada to upgrade, maintain and manage their water and wastewater services with the possibility of serving more communities in the future.

Some of these activities have already begun including reviewing existing systems' strengths and weaknesses and developing future asset management plans for the First Nations communities involved which represent about 60% of First Nations people who live on reserve in Atlantic Canada.

"This is a unique opportunity for First Nations to take control of a service critical to the social, economic and environmental well-being of their communities," explained Carl Yates, interim Chief Executive Officer of the AFNWA. "The AFNWA will not be going where the path may lead, but instead will be blazing a trail for others to follow."

The agreement lays out the processes, roles and responsibilities for all parties to transfer water and wastewater services to the ANFWA. ISC is providing funding to the AFNWA so the organization can become fully operational. Together, ISC and the AFNWA are working towards a long-term funding arrangement.

Chief Wilbert Marshall of Potlotek First Nation says his community is "excited by the progress the AFNWA has made and the significance this agreement represents. We are well-positioned for success with a utility established by First Nations, for First Nations."

The AFNWA was created in 2018 as a result of collaboration between the First Nations Clean Water Initiative, the Atlantic Policy Congress, interested First Nations in Atlantic Canada and ISC. Involving communities will continue to be a key component of how the AFNWA operates as it moves forward and this will ensure that experience, knowledge and best practices inform service delivery.

ISC is supporting work such as this across Canada, aligned with its mandate to support and empower Indigenous peoples to independently deliver services and address socio-economic conditions in their communities. For other examples, please visit: Supporting First Nations control of water delivery and Transferring infrastructure service delivery to First Nations.

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