On February 26, 2020, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) passed a resolution supporting the Council of Canadians’ Blue Communities Project.
UBCIC is a unifying voice, recognizing and upholding Indigenous rights and titles. Their leadership has been critical in fighting against extractive projects that threaten water, amplifying the work of land and water defenders, affirming the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and holding the B.C. and federal governments accountable.
As the Wet’suwet’en continue the struggle to protect their land and water, and solidarity from Indigenous communities across Turtle Island grows, we recognize and value Indigenous leadership in protecting water. The Council of Canadians is honoured to act in solidarity with UBCIC as we continue to work to protect water for present and future generations.
The Blue Communities Project is a joint initiative by the Council of Canadians and CUPE that encourages municipalities and communities to commit to protecting water by passing resolutions that acknowledge the human right to water and sanitation, ban or phase out bottled water on municipal facilities and events, and promote publicly owned and operated water and wastewater projects.
To date, over 70 municipalities, schools, universities and faith-based groups across Canada and around the world are Blue Communities. Blue Communities include cities likes Montreal, Victoria, Paris, Berlin, and Los Angeles, and institutions like the World Council of Churches and McGill University.
Across B.C. and Canada, Indigenous communities still lack access to safe, clean drinking water and adequate sanitation infrastructure, many for over two decades. This is a result of decades of discriminatory neglect and underfunding from our government. According to Anishinaabe journalist Tanya Talaga, this portrays “Canada’s failure to live up to its treaty obligations and to extend basic human rights to everyone living within its borders.”
Major projects like the Trans Mountain and Coastal GasLink pipelines put waterways at risk without the consent of Indigenous communities along their path. Nestlé and other water bottling companies extract groundwater, making millions by commodifying what should be our shared commons. Projects like these make it clear that B.C.’s water is not adequately protected by provincial legislation.
The B.C Water Sustainability Act fails to acknowledge Indigenous rights and titles over water and doesn’t require Free, Prior and Informed consent for projects on Indigenous territories. In November 2019, B.C. passed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, legislation which says that First Nations have the right to say “no” to extractive projects on their land. We must, therefore, continue to demand that Indigenous sovereignty is upheld to strengthen water protection.
Protecting water as a human right and shared commons cannot be separated from upholding Indigenous rights to govern and manage water on their territories and undoing the history of colonization of Indigenous peoples. As we continue to support these struggles, the Council of Canadians is committed to valuing Indigenous leadership, holding governments accountable, pushing back against corporate influence and building a vision of water protection that puts communities at its core. We look forward to working with UBCIC and Indigenous communities to protect water for future generations.