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First Nations highlight the right to water and sanitation at United Nations hearings in Geneva

Fawn Wapioke says, "Some Anishinaabe-kweg at the United Nations!"

Fawn Wapioke says, “Some Anishinaabe-kweg at the United Nations!”

First Nations are raising their demand for the right to water and sanitation at the United Nations.

Yesterday, CBC reported, “The lack of safe drinking water in three northwestern Ontario First Nations is on the agenda Monday [Feb. 22] at the United Nations Committee meeting on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Shoal Lake 40, Neskantaga and Grassy Narrows (Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabek) First Nations were all planning to make presentations to the committee in Geneva, Switzerland. None of the First Nations have tap water that is safe to drink.” Fawn Wapioke, Chief of Iskatewizaagegan (Shoal Lake 39) and member of the Grassroots Indigenous Water Defence, is also a part of this delegation.

Today, CBC notes, “Linda Redsky says she was overwhelmed when the chief of her community asked her to go to Geneva, Switzerland, and speak to the United Nations about the state of drinking water in Shoal Lake 40 First Nation… So on Monday, Redsky was part of a First Nations women’s delegation from Ontario, which was speaking before the United Nations committee… Shoal Lake 40 has been under a boil-water advisory for nearly 20 years, while at the same time providing clean drinking water to Winnipeg, Redsky explained to the members of the CESCR committee.”

The news article quotes Redsky who says, “I said things need to change in our communities, not only for us, but for our children because they need to have clean water. I shouldn’t need to have to take my boy to Winnipeg to have a clean bath for his eczema so he doesn’t get infected. We really need to be heard.”

And this Thunder Bay Newswatch article also quotes Redsky along with other First Nations representatives who presented to the UN committee:

Redsky – “The city (Winnipeg) has had clean tap water for almost 100 years. We didn’t get running water until 1994 and for the last 19 years our community has been on a boil-water order because of inadequate treatment systems. The problem is not the water. The problem is inequality and institutionalized discrimination that ensures that settler communities get essential services while Indigenous communities do not.”

Grassy Narrows First Nation Chief Roger Fobister Sr. – “Canada has not met its duty to obtain free, prior, and informed consent from Grassy Narrows’ Ojibway culture when it allowed timber companies to log on Grassy Narrows Indigenous homeland, nor when the company dumped 10 tonnes of mercury poison into the river of the Grassy Narrows people. Clean up the river.”

Grassy Narrows elder Judy Da Silva – “Some of our children continue to be born with mercury poisoning and for decades nothing has been done to clean the poison from our river. In the past, Canada has not respected our rights but I still have hope that the tide will finally turn for us and that the Prime Minister (Justin Trudeau) will honour his word.”

To see a 3-minute video of Linda Redsky’s presentation, please watch below.


The Council of Canadians supports the demand for the right to water and sanitation for all First Nations in Canada. Yesterday, Winnipeg-based Council of Canadians organizer Brigette DePape was interviewed in French by Radio-Canada. She highlighted our solidarity with First Nations on this issue and that about 120 First Nation communities across the country are currently under a boil water advisory. The Council of Canadians also contributed funds to help a second representative from the Shoal Lake 40 First Nation attend the UN meetings this week. The delegation at the UN is being supported by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Further reading
Trudeau must ensure the right to water and sanitation for First Nations within five years (Oct. 31, 2015)

Photo: Fawn Wapioke says, “Some Anishinaabe-kweg at the United Nations!”