Water and Infrastructure

AFN Annual Report 2016

The role and responsibility of the Housing and Infrastructure Unit is to ensure that lobbying and advocacy efforts related to water, wastewater and infrastructure, directed by the Chiefs Committee on Housing and Infrastructure (CCoHI) are carried out; to ensure that First Nations are adequately represented in initiatives as they affect First Nations Housing and Infrastructure; to maintain up-to-date information on First Nations housing and infrastructure and provide information upon request; to ensure that First Nations housing and infrastructure issues and concerns are raised in various forums and processes by political leaders and others; to advocate for, support and assist First Nations in the development and maintenance of regional housing and infrastructure strategies, as required; and, to follow up and monitor recommendations made by the CCoHI and in Resolutions to ensure effective implementation.

Recent resolutions include:

  • 16/2015 Support for Social Innovation/Financing to Enhance Funding for First Nations Socio-Economic Development
  • 24/2015 Support for Equitable Application of Shelter Allowance Program
  • 65/2015 Support for First Nations for the Safe Water Project
  • 70/2015 Support for Housing, Water and Infrastructure
  • 74/2015 First Nations Water, Infrastructure and Housing Commission
  • 76/2015 Safe Drinking Water for First Nations
  • 79/2015 Support for Remote First Nation Communities Who Rely on Winter Roads

KEY ISSUES AND ACTIVITIES

Housing and Infrastructure Reform – Development of a Sustainable Approach

In fiscal 2016/2017, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) will be supporting several engagements with the CCoHI, the AFN Regional Housing and Infrastructure Technicians and regional organizations and will support a National infrastructure Reform Forum. The objectives of these meetings and Forum are to seek input and recommendations on reforming how housing and infrastructure is delivered. The information gathered in these engagements will be brought to the National Infrastructure Reform Forum tentatively scheduled for the autumn of 2016. At this time, it is planned that leadership will be invited and supported to attend the Forum so that direction and recommendations will be coming from leadership. Focussed discussions are planned on how to better manage and deliver programs in housing, water and wastewater and community infrastructure. The Forum will also support the federal agencies and, in partnership with First Nations, provide support for the identification of sustainable funding needed beyond the short-term (Budget 2016), medium-term (5 years) and long-term (10–20 years).

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act (Bill s-8)

The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act came into force November 1, 2013. The Act enables the Government to develop enforceable federal regulations to ensure access to safe, clean, and reliable drinking water; the effective treatment of wastewater, and the protection of sources of drinking water on First Nation lands.

The Government's plan was to have Regulations developed:

  • Concurrently and region-by-region together with First Nations, provincial/territorial governments, and other stakeholders, as needed;
  • In a 3-phase approach, drafting regulations for 3 regions at a time;
  • Consistently with existing provincial and territorial regulations in each region, with adaptations to address the realities on First Nation lands.

Regulations would be phased in over time to allow the government and First Nations communities the opportunity to bring infrastructure and capacity to the levels required to meet these regulations. Funding was made available through the Government's ARO proposal process for Regional First Nations organizations to get input from First Nations to provide feedback on drafting instructions for the Government to develop draft regulations. INAC received minimal input from First Nations on the drafting of regulations. There was clarity lacking from INAC on their intent and expectations on the form and the content of input from First Nations.

Consequently, as a result of Resolution 76/2015, Safe Drinking Water for First Nations, calling for the repeal of the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, it is understood that Bill S-8 will be one of the pieces of legislation passed by the previous government that will come under review. The CCoHI and the AFN First Nation Technical Water Advisory Group (FNTWAG) look forward to involvement in this review of Bill S-8. The CCoHI and FNTWAG and their networks and supporters led much of the resistance to Bill S-11 and Bill S-8.

Water and Wastewater Infrastructure

Budget 2016 provides an unprecedented level of funding over the next five years. Of the $8.4 billion total announcement, $4.6 billion is targeted to Infrastructure Programs for Indigenous Peoples. Budget 2016 provides $1.8 billion over five years for water and wastewater projects, aligned with findings of the 2011 National Assessment to bring systems up to standards, to begin addressing gaps and to eliminate drinking water advisories in First Nations communities within five years.

$617.5 million will be allocated over the next two years to resolve 40% of long-term drinking water advisories, deliver a minimum of 140 water and wastewater minor and major capital projects per year, and begin to bring existing systems up to standard. In addition, there will be $141.7 million provided over five years to improve the monitoring and testing of drinking water (Health Canada).

First Nations Infrastructure Fund (FNIF)

Budget 2016 also provides for $255 million for infrastructure assets with historically low levels of funding and long-standing community needs. $155 million in funding for the First Nations Infrastructure Fund already exists from Budget 2013. In addition, $76.9 million in funding for cultural and recreational facilities will be rolled into the FNIF. Project categories have been amended over time to reflect changing needs. Projects currently funded are: planning and skills development; roads/bridges; energy systems (incl. fuel tanks); solid waste management; connectivity; structural mitigation; fire protection; and, cultural and recreational facilities.

Infrastructure for Educational Facilities

The Education Infrastructure Fund is intended to address the need for First Nations educational facilities by providing funding for the construction of new schools, as well as funding major renovations, additions and repairs. Budget 2016 announced $969.4 million for educational facilities while $675 million in funding for educational facilities already exists from Budget 2014. In total, $1.37 billion will be targeted for educational facilities from 2016-17 to 2021-22 in addition to$150,000,000 in A-Base funding.

Priority Ranking Frameworks (PRF)

INAC utilizes Priority Ranking Frameworks at the regional and headquarters level to evaluate funded projects in various categories such as water and wastewater or education facilities. The factors used to determine the desirability of a project has been determined according to an internal process at INAC. This year, the CCoHI and the Housing and Infrastructure Technicians will be given an opportunity to review and comment on the existing priority ranking frameworks and those under development. A Working Group from the technicians committee will be formed to work with INAC on the review.

The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples study on First Nations Housing and Infrastructure

The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples conducted a study on the challenges relating to First Nations housing and infrastructure on reserves. An interim report was released February 2015. It reported on what was heard so far. The interim report stated: "What the Committee has heard and seen about housing has been compelling. The poor quality of housing and the overcrowding in many communities is a distressing situation. At the same time, the Committee has been inspired by the innovative approaches taken by creative individuals in so many communities across the country. Indeed, innovation has been where big strides have been made by First Nations—in financing mechanisms, land use, and building materials."

The final report On-Reserve Housing and Infrastructure: Recommendations for Change was released in June 2015. The AFN and the Chair of the Senate Committee met and agreed to work together to support the 13 recommendations in the report. The overarching recommendation was that Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada remove the 2% cap on annual increases on funding, effective in Budget 2016-2017. In Budget 2016, the Government committed "to lift the 2-per-cent funding cap for First Nations programs and work to establish a new fiscal relationship that gives First Nations communities sufficient, predictable and sustained funding." Of the 13 recommendations, 8 were for housing and 5 for infrastructure. These recommendations will be considered during the reform engagement meetings.

NEXT STEPS – MOVING FORWARD

  • Continue monitoring developments related to the repeal of the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act and how First Nations may need to prepare for engagement;
  • Continue to support the CCoHI and the First Nations Technical Water Advisory Group (FNTWAG) to synchronize regional efforts;
  • Take on a renewed effort to work with Government of Canada staff, including but not limited to INAC, CMHC and Health Canada, to ensure program funding related to Budget 2016 is delivered fairly and timely manner;
  • Continue to support regional and national engagement activities on housing, water, and infrastructure with the goal of providing information to central agencies to develop and support a long-term sustainable plan;
  • Continue to support Fire Prevention services in First Nations communities and the efforts and activities of duly mandated firefighting organizations, as directed in Resolution 33/2011;
  • Continue to participate on the Transportation of Dangerous Goods General Policy Advisory Council and provide links for supportive information for first responders.

Assembly of First Nations