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The Globe and Mail backs our call to end the First Nations drinking water crisis

Emma LuiThe Council of Canadians and other members of the Water Solidarity Network coordinated an open letter to federal party leaders that was released yesterday calling on them to end the drinking water crisis in Indigenous communities.

Our media release states, “Over ninety First Nation communities and allied organizations sent an open letter to federal party leaders urging them to prioritize funding commitments to end the drinking water crises in Indigenous communities. The letter reads, ‘Despite repeated pledges from the federal government to ensure clean drinking water, there are routinely over 100 water advisories in effect in First Nation communities, with some communities living under advisories for over 10 years.’ Based on Health Canada and the First Nations Health Authority’s latest figures, there are a total of 162 drinking water advisories in 118 First Nation communities.”

The signatories to the letter – including Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, Grassy Narrows First Nation, the Assembly of First Nations, the David Suzuki Foundation, Amnesty International, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the Canadian Federation of Students, the Polaris Institute and the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs – calls on federal party leaders to: 1) commit to investing $470 million annually for the next 10 years in First Nations water treatment and wastewater systems; 2) implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the human right to water and sanitation.

Today, the Globe and Mail editorial board writes, “In July there were 133 Health Canada drinking water advisories in 126 First Nations communities. Ninety-three of them have been in place for more than two years. One-quarter have been ongoing for more than 10 years. And in a few communities, native residents have been boiling water since the 1990s. …The failure to provide safe drinking water on reserves has become chronic.”

The editorial board then firmly states, “This has to end. The next federal government should do an immediate audit of every troubled reserve system. It should then work directly with communities to fix the worst cases, and move on to the less urgent ones after that. If there are issues of sovereignty, local native governments and Ottawa should put them off until after the water is safe to drink. Every Canadian needs clean drinking water. It’s not a complicated position, morally or technically. The money is there and the problems are fixable. No more excuses.”

In terms of the party positions, Council of Canadians water campaigner Emma Lui has written:

Liberals – want to protect and ensure clean drinking water for First Nations, but see public-private partnerships as a way to do that.
Conservatives – have allocated a mere $165 million for drinking water in First Nation communities, this is inadequate.
NDP – want to improve essential physical infrastructure including drinking water facilities.
Greens – Elizabeth May says “facing the scandal of inadequate drinking water” is an urgent priority for her party.

Lui urges, “Please help circulate our letter to party leaders. Here are some sample tweets:

Federal party leaders urged to end drinking #water crisis in First Nation communities once and for all http://goo.gl/eYDw4J #elxn42

.@JustinTrudeau will you commit $4.7B needed to end drinking water crisis in Indigenous communities? http://goo.gl/eYDw4J #elxn42″

To tweet to the other party leaders insert @ThomasMulcair, @ElizabethMay and @pmharper.

Further reading
Federal party leaders urged to end drinking water crisis in First Nation communities once and for all (October 13, 2015 media release)
H2O in #elxn42: Your Guide to Water and the Federal Election (September 2015 blog by Emma Lui)

Photo: Vancouver-based Council of Canadians water campaigner Emma Lui.