Snuneymuxw continue to deal with water woes

First Nation dealing with major concerns at their reserve near Cedar 

Tamara Cunningham, Nanaimo Daily News 
The Snuneymuxw First Nation is dealing with major water concerns at their reserve near Cedar, BC.

The Snuneymuxw First Nation No. 2 reserve will tap into city water supply for the first time ever this year, as part of a recent land-agreement with the City of Nanaimo.

The Snuneymuxw First Nation has been dealing with “major water concerns” at their reserve near Cedar, since Health Canada directed well closures more than a decade ago over metal and e-coli contamination, according to Chief Douglas White.

The connection is unrelated to the lawsuit the First Nation is launching over water sharing discussions between the city and the Harmac mill.

Residents have been using cisterns for potable water, but White says the cost is significant and has done little to ease concerns about future supply. The band also faces pressures on reserves No. 3 and No. 4, which lack the water needed for the First Nation to expand housing.

A land deal signed with city officials in 2010 gives the Snuneymuxw $500,000 for a water main and distribution system on the No. 2 reserve in exchange for their support of the city using Crown land for a new water-treatment plant.

The deal, considered a winwin by all parties, will save the First Nation more than $50,000 a year. White says the agreement is also a good example of how First Nations and city leaders can work together to address “significant gaps” faced by indigenous peoples.

“Water is basically a necessity of life, so when it becomes a struggle to (get it), then yeah, it’s troubling,” White said.

City staff and the Snuneymuxw have been trying to address mutual water issues in the Nanaimo-area since 2007, and the band’s concerns about contamination and water quality were well known, said Bill Sims, the city’s manager of water resources.

The deal had the band support the request for Crown land, which the Snuneymuxw are interested in as part of treaty claims while the band received a commitment for a new water main. If there’s money left over it will go into the reserve’s delivery system. Construction on the main line is expected this summer.


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