The following letter was sent by OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas to the leaders of Ontario’s political parties regarding Bill 286, the Inherent Right to Safe Drinking Water Act 2021.
March 14, 2022
Hon. Doug Ford, Premier, Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party
Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Opposition, NDP
Steven Del Duca, Leader, Liberal Party of Ontario
Mike Schreiner, Leader, Green Party of Ontario
Re: Importance of passing Bill 286, the Inherent Right to Safe Drinking Water Act 2021
Dear Mr. Ford, Ms. Horwath, Mr. Del Duca, and Mr. Schreiner:
I’m writing to you on behalf of all members of OPSEU/SEFPO, including the Indigenous Circle, which advocates for the interests and concerns of Indigenous members of our union.
I urge every party to work together to pass Bill 286, the Inherent Right to Safe Drinking Water Act 2021, first introduced by MPP Sol Mamakwa, before this legislative session ends.
Bill 286 is of the utmost importance. If passed, it would require the provincial government to consult with community based First Nations rights holders, and to set the same standards for safe drinking water on First Nations reserves in Ontario that other communities have. The province would be required to submit those regulations to the Government of Canada with a request to turn them into regulations under the federal Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act. It also requires the province to continue inquiring about the status of these standards until the federal government brings in the appropriate regulations.
It is essential that federal and Ontario governments stop the jurisdictional wrangling and work together to get clean and safe drinking water on all First Nations reserves. The provincial government has a role here and when it takes concrete steps to demand for First Nations reserves have the same drinking water standards as other Ontario communities, it puts pressure on the federal government to do what is right.
In addition to passing this legislation, I urge each of you to ensure that safe and clean drinking water for First Nations reserves has a prominent place in your parties’ election platforms leading up to the provincial election this June.
I encourage you to include concrete actions that your party will take to ensure that all boil water advisories end and that every First Nations reserve in Ontario has safe water to drink.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas,
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union / Le Syndicat des employés de la fonction publique de l’Ontario (OPSEU/SEFPO)