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The auditor general says reserves have few regulations controlling environmental threats. ((Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press))

Ottawa has failed to provide proper environmental protection for First Nations reserves, Canada's auditor general says.

Sheila Fraser's report points out that 56 per cent of Aboriginal Peoples live on reserves, yet those reserves have few, if any, regulations controlling environmental threats such as improper sewage and waste disposal.

The report calls it a "significant gap."

For most places in Canada, there are municipal and provincial regulations governing everything from sewage disposal to where industry can dump waste water.

But those rules don’t apply to reserves, which are governed by the federal government.

The report points out that Ottawa should have stepped in to fill that gap with rules for reserves. But it hasn’t.

"There are few regulations that apply to environmental protection on reserves, and the federal government has taken little action to change this," says Fraser.

Here are other examples of environmental areas that don’t require permits or have any regulations:

  • There are no rules for the processing or recycling of garbage, the handling or disposal of hazardous waste for residential and community septic systems, or discharging that sewage into the environment.
  • There are also no rules for how industry can discharge untreated and potentially toxic water into the environment.

The report also points out that there is not enough training to teach aboriginal people to manage their local environments or enforce the few rules that do apply.

It recommends that Indian and Northern Affairs address the regulatory gap as soon as possible and move faster to give aboriginal people more control over their local environment.