Drinking Water Class Action

Important: Deadline for Individuals and First Nations to Object to the Proposed Settlement is November 23, 2021.

The Chiefs and Councils of the Tataskweyak Cree Nation in Manitoba, the Curve Lake First Nation and Neskantaga First Nation in Ontario, and Canada have prepared and signed the final settlement agreement that was required by the Agreement in Principle. The parties will bring the settlement agreement to the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench and the Federal Court of Canada for formal approval on December 7th this year. The hearing is scheduled to last until December 9th.

If the settlement is approved by the courts, individuals and First Nations will give up their right to sue Canada for failing to provide safe drinking water on their reserves. Subject to court approval, the lawyers will be paid by Canada from a separately negotiated fund and not the money available for compensation.

The courts must approve the proposed settlement before there is any money or any other benefit available. If you are eligible for compensation, your legal rights will be affected even if you do nothing.

You have three options:

  1. Object in writing: Write to the courts if you do not like the proposed settlement or the lawyers’ fees and do not want them approved. If the settlement is not approved, no one will get any benefits under the settlement.
  2. Object in person: Ask to speak in court about why you do not like the proposed settlement or the lawyers’ fees on December 7, 2021 at the Federal Court in Ottawa or by videoconference. You can obtain the details of the videoconference by contacting the Federal Court. If the settlement is not approved, no one will get any benefits.
  3. Do Nothing: Give up any right you have to object to the proposed settlement.

More Information about the Drinking Water Advisories Class Action

November 4, 2021: All details about the class action are available online: www.classaction2.com/drinkingwater.html
On this website, you can find a summary and clause by clause explainer, the settlement agreement, as well as settlement notices (both short and long forms). You can also find the various certification orders and notices posted there too.

Right now there are no immediate next steps for you.  The purpose of the notice at this stage is to inform class members about the contents of the settlement and the benefits it will provide for them, and to see if there are any objections to it.

Upon final approval by the courts (including any appeals) there will be a joint press release between the three nations and Canada. After the 60 day appeal period has passed by after the settlement is approved, Nipissing First Nation will have 270 days to decide to accept the settlement. All eligible individuals can make a claim within one year of the approval date. All of these details will be communicated as they are made available.


Background

On June 15, 2021, Chief and Council passed a resolution to “opt-in” to a national class action litigation against the Attorney General of Canada for failing to address prolonged drinking-water advisories on First Nations reserves across Canada, including Nipissing First Nation.

The lawsuit was launched by the Tataskweyak Cree Nation in Manitoba, the Curve Lake First Nation and Neskantaga First Nation in Ontario.  The three First Nations are jointly represented by the law firm McCarthy Tétrault and Oltuis Kleer Townshend (OKT) and are coordinating their approach to advancing the proceedings as one national class action against Canada. 

The key allegation is that Canada has breached its obligations to First Nations and their members by failing to ensure that reserve communities have access to clean and safe drinking water.

Nipissing First Nation is eligible to join the class action, which does not cost anything as the law firms are pursuing it on contingency, which means they will only be paid in the event of success.  The litigation seeks to advance the rights and well-being of First Nations communities and their members by:

  • Obtaining compensation for individuals and communities that have suffered from a lack of reliable access to clean water; and
  • Obtaining a declaration that Canada has an ongoing responsibility to work with First Nations to provide access to clean water. This includes requiring Canada to construct and fund appropriate water systems for First Nations communities.

The class includes all members of First Nations whose communities were subject to a drinking water advisory for at least one year or longer, from November 1995 to June 2021. Class members must have been alive two years prior to this action being commenced to be eligible for the compensation sought.

At the end of July 2021, the federal Indigenous Services Minister, Marc Miller, announced an Agreement-in-Principle (AIP) with the three First Nations through a negotiation process to resolve national class action suits on safe drinking water in these communities.

The agreement in principle must still be approved by the court, and includes $1.5 billion in compensation for people deprived of clean drinking water, the creation of a $400-million First Nation economic and cultural restoration fund and at least $6 billion to support reliable access to safe drinking water on reserves.

Potential compensation details have not been confirmed as of yet.

For additional information or updates from OKT, visit: Class Action Litigation on Drinking Water Advisories on First Nations Reserves – OKT (oktlaw.com)

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact: