Water Connects Us All
Canada is one of the most resource wealthy countries in the world; our land is abundant in wildlife, natural gas, oil and most importantly, water. To date, 18% of the world’s fresh surface water is found on Canadian soil within the Great Lakes. However, with all the abundance and wealth that our country holds, there are still those who go without. Water supplied to many First Nation reserve communities is contaminated, hard to access or at risk because of faulty treatment systems. The water that the vast majority of the country has access to is kept safe because of strict water quality regulations however, there are currently no binding regulations for water supplied on First Nations Reserves.
Today, 134 water systems in First Nations communities are under strict drinking water advisories, 90 of these communities are found in Ontario with the remaining 85 spread across the rest of Canada. Many of these drinking water advisories have been in place for many years, and some communities, even decades. These water advisories are indicative of a broader systemic crisis that leave so many First Nations people facing daily barriers to access safe water for drinking and basic hygiene!
Recently, PM Justin Trudeau announced plans to invest $4.6 billion to improving infrastructure in First Nations communities over the next five years, which includes improvements to water and wastewater systems. While this is a promising announcement, finances alone cannot remedy the crisis being experienced in our own backyard. It is imperative for change to happen at the policy level in order for significant impact to be made on the quality of life of people living in these communities.
These problems have a solution, and yet they have been the reality for many people for decades. The right to water includes everyone, without discrimination “to have access to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use.” The failure of the government to resolve the water and sanitation issue that exists on reserves constitutes a violation of this right to many First Nations people living on reserves in Ontario, and across the country.
It is time to end this crisis, and bring the needs of our First Nations to the forefront.