How would you feel if you did not have easy access to clean drinking water? Many of us cannot imagine being without such a simple necessity, yet many First Nations people are going through just that. Over 140 First Nations suffer from a lack of clean drinking water1. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised clean water to all First Nations communities by March of 2021, yet many still turn to alternative sources of water. The work that is being done is slow, insufficient, and is unlikely to meet the deadline of March 2021.

Drinking water has sometimes even been found with traces of uranium in it, which causes many problems for people, as it cannot be boiled away — some people have even died of cancer due to this contaminated water. The First Nations community of Kitigan Zibi, which is a two-hour drive away from parliament, has not had clean water since 1999. Their water has been found to have high traces of uranium in it. Jay Odjick from Kitigan Zibi states, “Can’t boil away radiation…we don’t drink it but we wash in it. [We] wash our babies in it.”1

A water advisory is a preventive measure that is implemented to protect people from unsanitary water. There are 40 First Nations communities that have had water advisories for over a decade. The longest standing water advisory of these is for the Neskantaga First Nations in northern Ontario, who have had a “boil water” advisory since 1995!2 In 2016, the Liberals set aside $1.8 billion to fix the First Nations water crisis. A Parliamentary Budget Officer said in a report that this amount is nowhere near enough to combat this crucial problem; he estimates the minimum required funding to be $3.2 billion.

Even though there are many obstacles to overcome, some progress has been made. The First Nations community of Slate Falls, which was under a “boil water” advisory for 14 years, finally received a new treatment plant costing $11.6 million. Many other communities just like Slate Falls have also been given new treatment plants for safe, clean and reliable drinking water.3

 

[1] Rieger, S. (2017, March 22). More Than 140 First Nations Still Lack Access To Safe Drinking Water. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2017/03/21/safe-drinking-water-canad_n_15528554.html

[2] Neskantaga First Nation demands action on 20-year boil-water advisory | CBC News. (2015, October 05). Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/indigenous/neskantaga-first-nation-demands-action-on-20-year-boil-water-advisory-1.3256929

[3] Canada, I. S. (2018, March 08). Slate Falls Nation Chief receives leadership award for her work to lift community’s 11 long-term drinking water advisories. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/indigenous-services-canada/news/2018/03/slate-falls-nation-chief-receives-leadership-award-for-her-work-to-lift-communitys-11-long-term-drinking-water-advisories.html