Lawyer questions coverage of First Nations water settlement as deal to be ratified
A lawyer for several First Nations says he can't get a clear answer on which Indigenous communities will be covered by a class-action settlement on drinking water — even though an $8-billion deal is scheduled to be ratified in court next week.
Clayton Leonard, who represents several bands in southern Alberta, says he's getting conflicting answers from the Justice Department and federal lawyers who worked on the deal.
He says the government says the money is available to all First Nations but federal lawyers tell him it's only for bands that had drinking water advisories for at least a year.
Leonard says that would leave out bands with recurring, short-term problems or bands that fall just short of the threshold.
He says it's also not clear if the advisories must have come from Health Canada or if band-issued advisories count.
The agreement, announced in July, includes $1.5 billion in compensation for people deprived of clean drinking water, $400 million for an economic and cultural restoration fund and at least $6 billion to support reliable access to safe drinking water on reserves.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2021