CLEAN WATER IS A HUMAN RIGHT.
Yet many communities across the country still don’t have access to safe, clean water. The majority of these are Indigenous communities. In a country as rich as Canada, nothing is more illustrative of the ongoing effects of colonization than the lack of access to water for Indigenous Peoples.
- October 2015: Liberal leader Justin Trudeau made a campaign promise to end First Nations reserve boil water advisories in 5 years stating, “This has gone on for far too long.”
- December 2020: Minister of Indigenous Services, the Honourable Marc Miller, admitted that the government would not meet its deadline of March 2021 to end all boil water advisories.
- March 2021: A report released by the Office of the Auditor General accused the Federal government of showing a lack of commitment to ending advisories. Auditor General Hogan wrote “Indigenous Services Canada did not provide the support necessary to ensure that First Nations communities have ongoing access to safe drinking water”.
- April 2021: An Access to Safe Drinking Water in First Nation Communities action plan was released by the government stating that the new deadline to end drinking water advisories was 2023-24 and that it would take an additional 2-3 years to provide long term solutions to affected First Nation groups.
- December 2021: The federal government issued a press release welcoming the approval of a multi-billion dollar class-action litigation settlement regarding clean drinking water and said it looks forward to implementing the ‘historic settlement’. Out of necessity, the deadline to apply to be a member of the class action has recently been extended to March of 2024.
According to the government’s water in First Nations webpage there are currently 28 long-term drinking water advisories in effect in 26 communities, and 31 short-term drinking water advisories in effect*. The cycle between long-term and short-term advisories can be a matter of days or weeks if solutions to long-term problems fail.
The ones that remain in place tend to be complicated, can include problems with the execution of construction or with challenge to hire, train and retain water plant operators. The federal list does not include communities who rely on wells or cisterns. Many more communities across Canada are not under official advisories but still lack access to safe, clean water.
Long-term drinking water advisories do not tell a full story of the state of access to drinking water in Canada.
The Still Thirsty for Justice campaign tells these stories and provides readers with the opportunity to take action to make things right.
* as of November 8, 2023