ACCESS TO CLEAN WATER IS NOT AN INDIGENOUS PROBLEM; IT'S A CANADIAN PROBLEM.

 

We believe that all Canadians have a responsibility to:

 

1. Acknowledge the disproportionate ways in which First Nation, Métis, and Inuit peoples are affected by clean water issues, including unsafe drinking water and contaminated waterways.

2. Assume accountability of our history of colonization as the root cause of this water crisis.

 

3. Do something about it.

CLEAN WATER IS A HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE AND AN ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUE. FRESHWATERS ARE AMONG THE MOST ENDANGERED ECOSYSTEMS ON THE PLANET

"CANADA IS NOT A WATER SECURE COUNTRY"

- Global Water Futures 

Canada's freshwaters are under attack by numerous threats, including land use changes, pollution, and climate change.

 

Did you know that:

Populations of freshwater species are declining at rates that exceed those in terrestrial and marine environments.

Climate change is likely to disproportionately impact freshwater ecosystems because shallow waters are highly sensitive to changing temperatures.

Freshwater challenges disproportionately affect Indigenous communities.

WATER ISSUES DISPROPORTIONATELY AFFECT INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES IN CANADA

THE NUMBER WATER-BORN INFECTIONS IS

MORE COMMON

IN FIRST NATIONS COMMUNITIES 

FRESHWATER  DISASTERS SUCH AS MERCURY POISONING ARE

1 in 8

FIRST NATIONS ARE UNDER A DRINKING WATER ADVISORY

 

 

 

IN CANADA

2.5 times

MORE COMMON IN FIRST NATIONS COMMUNITIES

 

 

BOIL WATER ADVISORIES ARE

26 times

HIGHER IN FIRST NATIONS COMMUNITIES 

THE NUMBER OF WATER-BORNE INFECTIONS IS

Many First Nations do not have access to clean drinking water,

even when neighbouring municipalities do.

GRASSY NARROWS

 On World Water Day 2019, Amnesty International Canada launched a campaign to support Indigenous water rights within the country, specifically highlighting the cases of mercury poisoning in Grassy Narrows throughout the 1960s, the mining disaster in Mount Polley in 2014, and the pending construction of Site C dam in northern British Columbia.

 

In Grassy Narrows, 90% of residents currently suffer from mercury poisoning after a paper mill in Dryden dumped tonnes of mercury waste into the English-Wabigoon river between 1962 and 1970. Grassy Narrows has been under a long-term boil water advisory since 2015, the river has not been cleaned up, and a medical treatment center that was promised in 2017 has yet to be built.

The closest city to Grassy Narrows is Kenora, less than an hour and half drive away. Kenora won first place in a blind taste test of regional drinking water in 2018. 

SIX NATIONS OF THE GRAND RIVER

 

In Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario, the largest First Nations reserve in Canada and only 30 minutes outside of the city of Hamilton, only 9% of residents have household access to clean water. Personal wells are contaminated, largely from agricultural run-off from neighbouring areas. Six Nations raised funds for a new water treatment plant in 2014 to treat the water but the majority of the community is not serviced. Most residents rely on bottled water from fill stations.

 

Furthermore, near Six Nations reserve, Nestlé extracts and bottles water, profiting off of local water resources that residents themselves are unable to access.

A lack of access to clean water is not an isolated issue in a few remote communities; these are systemic injustices perpetrated against Indigenous peoples across the country.

What does it mean to not have access to clean water?

Imagine not being able to turn on the tap to brush your teeth, take a shower, wash your hands, clean your clothes, cook your food, or drink a glass of water. 

 

Imagine having to take time out of your day to commute to the nearest water station to fill up water jugs for your family. Imagine if your only option for clean drinking water was to buy expensive cases of bottled water. 

Imagine if the lake that you used to swim, fish, play, and paddle in was so polluted that you stopped going? Imagine if your ancestors had relied on these waters for centuries but within your lifetime, that connection was severed.

Imagine living with a debilitating disease caused by undisclosed contamination in your waterways, being denied federal compensation, and not being able to afford appropriate treatment. 

You would not accept these conditions for you or your family,

so why do we allow it for entire communities?

WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?

Colonial legacies affect Indigenous access to clean water.

A recent report by the David Suzuki Foundation highlighted the root causes of poor access to clean drinking water in Indigenous communities, including:

A highly complicated federal investment process

Lack of resources

Limited decision making power

No regulatory framework

First Nations communities do not have the same legally binding drinking water standards as provinces and territories.

 

There is no accountability and as a consequence, some drinking water advisories have been in place for decades. This inequality, along with numerous injustices that currently impact Indigenous peoples in Canada, is a direct result of colonization.

 

Canoe for Clean Water believes that Canada needs to take accountability for our legacy of colonization and take action now to dismantle these racist and paternalistic structures.

The federal government is taking some action but it is not enough.

In 2016, the federal government committed $1.8 billion over 5 years to end all long-term drinking water advisories on reserves by 2021. As of November 2019, the government had ended 87 long-term advisories, with 57 remaining. While this represents progress, the effort has received criticism the funding does not address the root causes of drinking water advisories and only targets a small proportion of drinking water issues across the country. Notably, it does not include short-term advisories or First Nations communities in B.C. that fall under a different authority. For example, Six Nations of the Grand River (mentioned above) is missing from this federal initiative.

Screen Shot 2019-12-04 at 1.47.46 PM.png

Canoe for Clean Water is our way of doing something about water injustices in Indigenous communities across Canada.

Drinking water advisories and associated freshwater issues in Indigenous communities are as unique as the communities that they affect and permanently solving them will require local, holistic approaches. That's why we've partnered with Water First, a highly effective charity that works alongside Indigenous communities to address clean water challenges through education, training, and collaboration.

We hope you'll join us and support our journey.

RESOURCES

 

We are are constantly adding and expanding to our list of resources

- if you have suggestions of what should be included, please let us know! 

DRINKING WATER ADVISORIES IN CANADA

All Advisories: Water Today (Website)

Long-Term Advisories: Government of Canada (Website)

British Columbia: First Nations Health Authority (Website)

FEATURES

 

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, 2013

Assembly of First Nations. 2019. Safe Drinking Water of First Nations Act. (website)

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. 2019. Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act. (website).

Indigenous Services Canada. 2019. Safe drinking water for First Nations legislation: First Nations-led engagement 2019. (website).

Thornton, A. A. 2019. Colonialism on tap: Why the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act is an ineffective and dangerous foundation for a for securing safe drinking water for First Nations. AFN National Water Symposium, Scotiabank Convention Centre, Niagara Falls. (presentation slides).

REFERENCES

Reports

David Suzuki Foundation. 2017. Glass Half Empty? Year 1 Progress Toward Resolving Drinking Water Advisories in Nine First Nations in Ontario. (pdf)

David Suzuki Foundation. 2018. Reconciling Promises and Reality: Clean Drinking Water for First Nations. (pdf).

 

McKitrick, R., Aliakbari, E. and A. Stedman. 2018. Evaluating the State of Fresh Water in Canada. Fraser Institute. (pdf

Merrill, S., Schuster-Wallace, C.J., and Sandford, R. 2019. Water Futures for the World We Want: Opportunities for Research, Practice, and Leadership in Achieving SDG 6. University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada. (pdf).

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. 2015. Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. (pdf)

Articles

Beaumont, H. 2019, Oct. 22. What Would It Look Like to Take the First Nations Water Crisis Seriously? The Walrus. (online article).

Cheung, C. 2019, Oct. 16. This Ontario First Nation’s boil water advisory has been in effect for 25 years. The Narwhal. (online article).

McClearn, M. 2019, Oct. 10. Is ending boil-water advisories enough for First Nations? Why some are suing Ottawa for equality. The Globe and Mail. (online article).

Palmater, P. 2019, Feb. 6. First Nations water problems a crisis of Canada's own making. Policy Options. (online article). 

Peer-Reviewed Papers

Arsenault, R., Diver, S., McGregor, D., Witham, A., and C. Bourassa. 2018. Shifting the framework of Canadian water governance through Indigenous research methods: Acknowledging the past with an eye on the future. Water 2018 10(1), 49. (pdf)

Dhillon, C. and M.G. Young. 2010. Environmental racism and First Nations: A call for socially just public policy development. Canadian Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences 2010 1(1): 23-37. (pdf

Patrick, R.J., Grant, K., and L. Bharadwaj. 2019. Reclaiming Indigenous planning as a pathway to local water security. Water 2019 11(5), 936. (pdf)

Books and Book Chapters

Bharadwaj, L. and L. Bradford. 2018. Indigenous Water Poverty: Impacts Beyond Physical Health. In Exner-Pirot, H., B. Norbye and L. Butler (eds.), Northern and Indigenous Health and Healthcare. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan: University of Saskatchewan. (Chapter).

Waldron, I.R.G. 2018. There’s Something In The Water: Environmental Racism in Indigenous & Black Communities. Black Point, Nova Scotia: Fernwood Publishing. (Book).

Short Documentaries

 

Amnesty International Canada. 2019. Defending Water Defending Life. Canada. (YouTube).

Davidson, A (Producer). 2015. Canada's Waterless Communities: Shoal Lake 40 [Documentary]. Canada: Vice. (YouTube).

Upperkut (Producer) and F. Péloquin (Director). 2016. The Story of Grassy Narrows [Documentary]. Canada: Public Service Alliance of Canada. (YouTube).

Full Documentaries

Page, E., Daniel, I., Sanderson, J.,  Waldron, I. (Producers) and Page, E., Daniel, I. (Directors). 2019. There's Something in the Water [Documentary]. Canada: 2 Weeks Notice. (TIFF Premier). 

Radio 

Why do few people on Six Nations have clean running water, unlike their neighbours. Out in the Open. CBC Radio, Canada. 20 April 2018. Radio.

Other

Global Water Futures Co-Creation of Indigenous Water Quality Tools (Website) (Instagram)