Justin Trudeau and the Liberals made a commitment to end long-term drinking water advisories in First Nations communities by March 2021. As of October 31, 2017, there are 100 long-term drinking water advisories and 47 short-term drinking water advisories in public systems financially supported by INAC and other systems where the public has a reasonable expectation of access.
Many of us are, understandably, getting involved and demanding that the government address this issue. However, water by any means is not an answer. Some First Nations communities are already relying on private water sources and these water sources are not maintained and are part of the problem. The Harper government wanted to privatize water in First Nations and the current Liberal government likely sees privatization as a quick fix.
Karl Nerenberg explains how elements of Canadian society have been complicit in undermining First Nations causes and the basic right to water. Let us not continue this complicity by rushing to action without being very clear what is being demanded. The Indian Act, first proclaimed in 1876, requires that First Nations get the federal government’s approval before doing almost anything on their reserves, including negotiating water-sharing agreements. Many communities are demanding increased voice and autonomy, and do not want the federal government farm out contracts to private companies as a quick fix. The Canadian government has a responsibility to ensure that all Canadians have access to clean drinking water and the government should not be allowed to step away from this responsibility. It is increasingly apparent that the government has not met its responsiblity and this can be used to build First Nations autonomy. Right now, in Atlantic Canada, First Nations communities are demanding the establishment of a local First Nations Water authority.
The Council of Canadians has been actively working on this issue and with local First Nations community to amplify their work to access water. Follow and work with their campaign.
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