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UPDATE: Barlow to address Assembly of First Nations conference today

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow will be the keynote speaker today at a ‘Water Rights special session’ co-hosted by the Assembly of First Nations and the Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations. Today’s special session is part of an AFN Water Conference taking place in Edmonton this week.

National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo has stated, “First Nations face increasing difficulties in accessing safe and clean drinking water. Water is a basic element of life that is essential to the overall health and economic well being of First Nations. With intensifying environmental pressures, a call for attention to the condition of our waters and the assertion of First Nations water rights and interests is increasingly important.”

In July 2011, Barlow also spoke at the AFN’s 32nd annual meeting in Moncton, New Brunswick. The Canadian Press reported that Barlow highlighted the Canadian government’s obligation under international law to fulfil for First Nations peoples the UN-recognized right to water and sanitation. She said, “They have obligations to fulfil and we must not let them off the hook.” That’s at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=9889.

In late March 2011, Barlow, water campaigner Emma Lui, Blue Planet Project organizer Anil Naidoo, and political director Brent Patterson met with the national chief in his Ottawa office to discuss the development of an AFN-Council of Canadians joint work plan on water. Six weeks later, in a speech welcoming Anishinabe water-walkers to Ottawa, Atleo stated that ‘women are in the forefront of efforts to protect water and that we must follow courageous women like the water-walkers and Maude Barlow’.

And in December 2010, Barlow spoke to almost 1,000 First Nation chiefs and councillors at an AFN Special Chiefs Assembly in Gatineau, Quebec. She spoke about water as a human right and how the Harper government has opposed this right at the United Nations, including abstaining at the historic vote at the General Assembly in July 2010. More on that – including her full speech – at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=4962.

For campaign blogs referencing concerns shared by the Assembly of First Nations and the Council of Canadians, please go to http://canadians.org/blog/?s=%22assembly+of+first+nations%22. Both organizations have called for $1 billion to be spent this fiscal year to build, upgrade and maintain water and wastewater infrastructure in First Nation communities (as well as $1 billion in 2012-13 and 2013-14).