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Bill C-61 focuses on protecting safe drinking water for First Nations (webinar)

Author(s): Marleigh Dick, Maeve O'Neill Sanger

Jan 30, 2024

The federal government’s recently introduced Bill C-61 supports both a First Nations drinking water class action settlement agreement and further efforts to incorporate the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (UNDRIP) into Canadian law, attendees learned during the January Indigenous Law Insights webinar. Presenters were litigation associates Marleigh Dick and Maeve O’Neill Sanger.

Bill C-61, which was introduced for First Reading on December 11, 2023, sets a legislative requirement for Canada to meet its commitments under a class action settlement with First Nations individuals who lived under a drinking water advisory over a 26-year period. The proposed legislation also supports Canada’s UNDRIP action plan which calls for the lifting of drinking water advisories in First Nations communities and for providing legally enforceable safe drinking water protections comparable to those in place in provinces and territories. To protect source water, Bill C-61 further contemplates the Minister of Indigenous Services designating protection zones adjacent to First Nations lands.

Should Bill C-61 be passed, businesses will need to be aware of First Nations water laws when conducting activities on or near reserve lands. As well, it will be important to become familiar with who the governing bodies are, and what laws apply.

Watch the full webinar