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Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Bill

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Statement made on 08 June 2010 by Senator Tommy Banks (retired)

Hon. Tommy Banks:

Honourable senators, I am rising today because I promised Senator Brazeau that I would speak today on this bill. I had intended simply to urge that we send it to committee for study. However, in the intervening days, I found out some things that I did not know before.

First, I wish to point out to honourable senators that while Senator Grafstein was a member of this place, he proposed, over the past seven years, time and again — and, I do not know how many times he proposed it, but I think the Senate passed it twice, at least — a bill respecting the safety of drinking water for Canadians. If it had been passed by Parliament, it would have obviated the necessity for this or for any other bill because it went much further than this bill before us with respect to protecting the safety of drinking water for all Canadians, very much including, as Senator Grafstein continually stated, First Nations.

I have no doubt of the good intent of this bill. However, with good intentions, there are sometimes slips between the cup and the lip. I have been informed that the Assembly of First Nations is opposed to this bill. Since this is a bill that deals with drinking water on First Nation lands, I think that attention must be paid — more attention than I have been able to pay so far — to the opposition by the Assembly of First Nations to the passage of this bill.

I am further informed that the Safe Drinking Water Foundation is opposed to the passage of this bill. The foundation is not some wacko, left wing, tree hugging activist group, honourable senators. The Chairman of the Safe Drinking Water Foundation is Dr. David Schindler. He is not merely an eminent scientist; he is a pre-eminent scientist, of whom most of us have heard. The foundation of which Dr. Schindler is the chair is opposed to this bill, for reasons that include the suggestion that "the proposed federal regulations" — I am quoting that foundation — "could actually put the communities themselves at risk; that First Nation communities, in order to be able to produce truly safe drinking water and meet these regulations, will require more funding, more training, and more effective water treatment processes than are currently available. . ."

Honourable senators, and with apologies to Senator Brazeau, I will ask for the adjournment of the debate for the remainder of my time. I will attend to it as early as I can possibly get the required information.


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