Barrie could chip in to improve water services in Indigenous communities

Residents would have the option to make a donation to Water First on their water bill

Some Barrie money could flow toward a Creemore-based charity to improve water services in Indigenous communities.

Barrie council passed a motion on Monday that would see the city consult with Indigenous communities, including the Barrie Native Friendship Centre and the Barrie Area Native Advisory Circle, on the possibility of dedicating 0.2 per cent of the municipality’s 2022 water and wastewater revenue to Water First.

According to the organization’s website, Water First says it is “Canada’s leading charitable organization dedicated to helping First Nations communities solve their water challenges through training, education, and meaningful collaboration. Our programs address drinking water and environmental water challenges while working with Indigenous youth and young adults”

The group points out that 13.5 per cent of First Nations communities in Canada are under a boil water advisory. Water First says in Ontario, it is 40 per cent, more than twice the national average.

The organization, founded in 2009, has partnered with over 50 Indigenous communities in Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec, and Labrador on a variety of education and training projects focusing on drinking water and environmental water.

Staff in Barrie’s Finance Department have been directed to investigate an option that would provide residents with the opportunity to make a donation to Water First on their water bill. As well, representatives of the Indigenous communities would be invited to attend a Finance and Corporate Services committee meeting before December to provide feedback on the proposal.

As well, the city through Access Barrie, would enter into a three-year partnership with Water First for the purpose of marketing their organization in future signage along the waterfront, on the Canada Day webpage, and in appropriate marketing resources as decided by the executive director of Access Barrie.

Water First would be required to consult with its First Nations Advisory Council and other partners on the proposal and report back to the City of Barrie before December.