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(March 11, 2022) – Indigenous communities and individuals may soon be entitled to compensation from a class-action lawsuit that was settled with the federal government for $8-billion.

In 2019, two Ontario First Nations filed separate lawsuits against the federal government, citing drinking-water advisories on First Nations reserves across the country.

The plaintiffs sought compensation for those who suffered from a lack of reliable access to clean water.

Last July, Ottawa reached a settlement with the First Nations. In December of 2021, an $8-billion agreement was approved by the courts. Of the money to be awarded, there will be $1.5 billion in compensation for individuals deprived of clean drinking water. Six-billion dollars will be set aside to upgrade water infrastructure to help settle ongoing water issues. There will also be the creation of a $400-million First Nation Economic and Cultural Restoration Fund.

First Nations communities could be entitled to $500,000 if they agree to the settlement. Under the terms of the agreement, they will not have to outline how the community was harmed. There is a clause in the settlement that gives Indigenous communities authority over their water systems repairs. A website has also been set up to help people who want to file a claim under the drinking water settlement. A hotline is also available for those needing assistance.

Indigenous leaders have applauded the decision, and say the money will go a long way toward fixing chronic water issues. They warn however, that while the compensation is welcome, money alone can never repair the harm done to communities.

 

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