Neskantaga First Nation, in northwestern Ontario, finally has a written commitment from the federal government to build a new water treatment plant in the remote community, which has been without safe tap water for 20 years.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett made a promise to fund the water treatment plant at a meeting earlier this month with Neskantaga Chief Wayne Moonias.
The written confirmation of the commitment came in response to a media request from CBC News, after a flurry of meetings with department officials in the days leading up to the Christmas break.
- Neskantaga First Nation: 5 people whose daily life revolves around getting clean water
- Bad water: 'Third World' conditions on First Nations in Canada
- Neskantaga First Nation demands action on 20-year boil-water advisory
"Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) officials confirmed funding support for the design phase of the water treatment plant, with funding to flow in budget year 2016-2017," a spokesperson for the department wrote in an email to CBC News.
The commitment also includes $363,000 in funding to complete interim repairs to the old water treatment plant, according to INAC.
That plant was built in 1993 with problems beginning almost immediately after it opened, according to the chief. The boil water advisory was put in place in 1995.
"We're over 20 years already where our people haven't been able to get the water they need to drink from their taps or to bathe themselves without getting any rashes," Chief Moonias told CBC News last May.
There is a reverse osmosis system, which purifies water, but it's located on the edge of the community, down a steep hill. Residents have to get to the plant and pick up the water themselves presenting challenges for parents of young children and elders.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said the Liberals will fulfil their election promise to provide safe drinking water to all First Nations within five years.
"If we can get 25,000 Syrians here to Canada because of political will and everybody putting their shoulder to the wheel, I think we can get this done too," Bennett said.
Two-thirds of all First Nation communities in Canada have been under at least one drinking water advisory at some time in the last decade, a CBC News investigation revealed earlier this year.
Bennett announced funding for a road to Shoal Lake 40 First Nation on Dec. 17. The road will facilitate the construction of a new water treatment plant in that community. It has been under a boil water advisory for 18 years.