Water is an essential part of human life, yet clean, safe water is inaccessible to many Indigenous communities. There are over 160 First Nations communities affected by water advisories. This doesn’t include Metis Settlements or Inuit communities, which may be affected as well. When communities are unable to access clean water, this affects the overall health of the community, especially its most vulnerable residents, young children, and the elderly.
Who is affected?
- The boil water advisory primarily affects rural and remote Indigenous communities, including children and families who suffer and are at risk under these advisories
- You can see a list of advisory communities here
- The British Columbia water advisories are monitored by the First Nations Health Authority
Background & Context
In many communities, the tap water is not safe to drink and residents must boil their water before they can consume it. In some places, the water has not been safe without boiling, for decade and there are a number of communities whose water is not safe for consumption even after it has been boiled. Boil water or do not consume advisories can be issued by Chief and Council or by provincial, territorial, or municipal government in off-reserve communities. Except in British Columbia, Health Canada is responsible for working with communities to monitor water quality.
Many rural Indigenous communities don’t have the funds or resources to fix this issue on their own, meaning they have to apply for funding from the government to fix or upgrade their current water systems. In northern communities, where food costs are high, bottled water is incredibly expensive and inaccessible for residents, leading to a safety issue regarding water. Communication and negotiations with the government for funding can takes years, making it even more difficult to access those funds. Our youth see this is an issue that needs to change if we ever want to properly invest in our futures and the futures of our people.
Who is making change?
Responsibility is shared among band councils, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, Health Canada and Environment Canada.
According to INAC: First Nations own, manage, monitor their water systems and they also issue drinking water advisories. INAC provides funding and advice on design and operation, funding to train water treatment operators, and sets protocol. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada also helps to protect water quality in Canada's North and is responsible for managing water resources in and around Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. The Government of Yukon is responsible for its water resources.
Health Canada ensures monitoring across all provinces except British Columbia (the First Nations Health Authority is responsible) and helps identify water quality problems. Environment Canada regulates treatment of wastewater discharged to receiving waters, and provides guidance on source water protection and sustainable water use.
- Chief and Council
- Prime Minister
- Cabinet Ministers
- Political Parties: New Democratic Party, Conservative Party, Green Party, Liberal Party
- AFN – Perry Bellegarde; ITK – Natan Obed; MNC – Clement Chartier
- Legislative Committees
What is being done now?
- The 2016 federal budget included $1.8 billion to improve on-reserve water infrastructure over a five year period. Included in this, is $9 million dollars to improve the water treatment plant for the Neskantaga First Nation, which has been without water for 22 years
- The government has promised that the advisory would be lifted by 2018
- According to INAC, there have been 18 long-term advisories lifted since November 2015 and there are 201 projects underway to prevent and address advisories, and another 29 aimed at addressing 44 long-term DWAs which are financially supported by INAC.
Party Platforms & Positions
- The Liberal Party
- Prime Minister Trudeau stated, "A Canadian government led by me will address this as a top priority because it's not right in a country like Canada. This has gone on for far too long."
- Provincial/Territorial Parties
- Vice News Fact Check (September 5, 2017).
- National Post. Government spending only 70% of what's needed to end boil-water advisories on reserves: PBO. (December 7, 2017).
- The Council of Canadians. Safe Drinking Water for Canadians.