By Chadd Cawson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
First Nations and Indigenous individuals can breathe a sigh relief as the deadline to submit for compensation with the First Nations Drinking Water Settlement has now been extended. The First Nations Drinking Water Settlement is a settlement (agreement) between the Government of Canada (Canada) and certain First Nations and their members. Any Indigenous individual or First Nation affected by a long-term drinking water advisory that lasted for at least one year between November 20, 1995, and June 20, 2021, will now have until March 7, 2024, to submit their claims.
“The extension will be excellent for our members to be able to submit a claim,” said Shuswap Band Chief, Barb Cote. “There was little time provided for Shuswap to be able to engage with our communities and guide them on this process. The extension will not affect dates of compensation being delivered to our community members.”
All claims are received and reviewed by Deloitte, the acting Administrator for the First Nations Drinking Water Settlement. Deloitte is a global provider of audit and assurance, consulting, financial advisory, risk advisory, tax, and related services. Claims for individual damages submitted before March 7, 2023, will be assessed by the Administrator, and eligible payments will be processed. Claims submitted between March 8, 2023, and March 7, 2024, will be assessed, and eligible payments will be processed after March 7, 2024. All claims for specified injuries compensation will be processed after March 7, 2024.
To be eligible for compensation that First Nations Drinking Water Settlement will provide, individuals must be a member of a First Nation and must have been impacted by a long-term drinking water advisory (boil water, do not consume or do not use) that lasted at least a year between November 20, 1995, and June 20, 2021. For those submitting a claim on a loved one’s behalf they must not have passed away before November 20, 2017.
For claimants born before November 20, 1995, they must have ordinarily resided or lived on an impacted First Nation during a long-term drinking water advisory that lasted continuously for a year or longer, anytime between November 20, 2013, and June 20, 2021. If born on or after November 20, 1995, the claimant must have ordinarily resided/lived on an impacted First Nation during a long-term drinking water advisory that lasted continuously for a year or longer, anytime between November 20, 1995, and June 20, 2021. Individuals can also apply for specified injuries compensation for injuries they experienced while complying with drinking water advisories.
“The news in general for the settlement will benefit our community and membership immensely,” said Cote. “This will give Shuswap the ability it needs to begin discussions with Canada for a much-needed water system upgrade. This upgrade will benefit Shuswap members by being able to build more homes for our people, expand economic development and strive to create the respectful, prosperous, and self-sufficient community we know we deserve. First Nations still being plagued with unsafe drinking water in 2023 or that have no access to running water is disheartening. Canada must make the commitment that water on First Nation Reserves, meets the stricter of the federal requirements or provincial standards governing residential water quality. For greater clarity, the nature and quantity must be sufficient to meet all standards required in a similarly situated Canadian home.”
There are resources available to support First Nations and individuals in completing their claims. The First Nations Drinking Water website includes a list of impacted First Nations and interactive guides which provide step by step instructions on completing and submitting a claim form.