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one boilwater advisory is one too many

Delivering the water drops on National Indigenous Peoples Day

On Friday, June 21st, the Council of Canadians team celebrated National Indigenous Peoples Day by bringing messages from students across the country to the Prime Minister’s doorstep, calling for an end to drinking water advisories in First Nations communities once and for all. Carrying more than 700 water drops sent in from elementary students, we reminded Prime Minister Trudeau of his commitment to ending drinking water advisories in First Nations. 

The water drop delivery was the culmination of a three-month long campaign in partnership with the Small Change Fund, starting on World Water Day on March 22nd, to educate students about the drinking water crisis in First Nations, the human right to water, and water protection through our lesson plans, educational activities, and collaboration with teachers and parents across the country. The students then drew, wrote, and coloured their message to the Prime Minister on water drops with such clarity and honesty, in a way that young people are uniquely capable of. 

When they took office in 2015, the Liberal government committed to ending all drinking water advisories by 2021. To date, however, there are still 26 reserves with long-term drinking water advisories, including some that have been in place for more than 25 years. There is also a deficit in funding for the maintenance and operation of drinking water systems on reserves, which the Parliamentary Budget Officer identified as amounting to $138 million per year. 

Over the last eight years, we have continued to keep the Liberal’s feet to the fire about this commitment, mobilizing our supporters to send 47,000 emails to the Prime Minister, and since 2022, expanded our educational program to the youngest activists. The 700+ water drops this year added to more than 4000 others sent to the Prime Minister from previous years. 

While Council staff were on the hill on June 21st, we engaged with Ottawa residents and visitors, reminding them of our obligations to honour treaty rights and highlighting the drinking water crisis in First Nations communities as an example of the ongoing impacts of colonization today. We also shared the history of the Council’s advocacy on the human right to water, handed out “Water is a Human Right” buttons, and 40 people filled out their own water drop. We were met with so much enthusiasm, appreciation, and support from passersby, among which were Vancouver Granville MP Taleeb Noormohamed and Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. 

Following very positive engagement on Wellington Street, we brought more 700 water drops, now 40 drops heavier, to the Prime Minister Office and delivered them. We hope the Prime Minister will listen to the rising tide of young activists and deliver safe, clean drinking water to First Nations, because even one drinking water advisory is one too many. 

The Council of Canadians team is also following the development of the First Nations Clean Water Act. The bill was tabled in December 2023, and recently proceeded to the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs. First Nations in Treaty 6, 7, and 8, Nishnabe Aski Nation and in Alberta and Manitoba have strongly critiqued the bill  due to the lack of co-development with First Nations, its plan to offload the infrastructure needs on reserves to First Nations, and inadequate long-term funding. We will continue to follow the development of this legislation, uplift the voices from affected First Nations, and inform our supporters and members of opportunities to expand our advocacy.  

Vi Bui

Vi Bui is the Ontario, Quebec, Nunavut Regional Organizer at the Council of Canadians.