WINNIPEG — A Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench ruling has opened the door for a class-action lawsuit over a lack of safe drinking water on First Nations.
Chief Justice Glenn Joyal ruled on Tuesday that a lawsuit filed by a First Nation in 2019 is now certified as a class action, which means any First Nation that is impacted by drinking water advisories may join the lawsuit.
Chief Doreen Spence of the Tataskweyak Cree Nation, which is 700 kilometres north of Winnipeg, said the community hasn’t been able to trust the tap water for years.
“These inequalities of not having clean drinking water is unacceptable and basically I hope that moving forward with this action we hope that this will be rectified because I believe we are all Canadian and we deserve clean drinking water like everybody else,” said Spence.
Michael Rosenberg, who is the lead counsel on the lawsuit, is seeking compensation from the federal government regarding drinking water advisories of more than $2 billion.
“This is an important day for class members, who will now have a chance to seek justice on the merits of their claims. Access to clean drinking water is a fundamental right, and all Canadians can understand the urgency of this case,” said Rosenberg.
“I am aware that past members are now counting on the federal government to follow through on this commitment by ensuring that all reserves have access to clean drinking water.”
According to the government’s website, there are currently 61 long term water advisories in effect across the country.
Spence said having clean drinking water is a basic human right.
“We couldn’t sit back and wait because we know it’s never going to happen if we don’t take a step forward,” said Spence.
Spence added that the community would need updated infrastructure to provide clean drinking water and while it would take some time, she said they are in it for the long haul.
Currently, there are four First Nations in Alberta and one in B.C. that have proceedings before the federal court regarding clean drinking water.
Those are active cases and because of that, they are not allowed to be part of the class-action lawsuit.
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