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They are more of a policy performance measure than a true indicator of water security and well-being.

Corinna Dally-Starna, PhD Student, School of Environmental Studies, Queen’s University – The Conversation Canada – Feature Photo by CARLOS OSORIO/THE CANADIAN PRESS

n October, more than 250 members of the Neskantaga First Nation were evacuated to Thunder Bay after an oily sheen was found on their reservoir. The discovery left the community, located in northern Ontario, without access to running water.

The evacuation drew attention to the federal government’s 2015 commitment to end all on reserve long-term drinking water advisories (in place for more than one year) by March 31, 2021. Neskantaga has been living under a boil-water advisory for 26 years.

An end to long-term advisories would be marked progress towards addressing these historic issues. But the federal government’s decision to choose long-term advisories as the measure for clean drinking water on First Nations reserves is faulty. Long-term advisory statistics are more of a policy performance measure than a true indicator of First Nations water security and well-being.