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Safe Water for First Nations

Nothing is more important than clean water.

Yet at any given time there are drinking water advisories in dozens of First Nations communities across Canada. The lack of clean, safe drinking water in First Nations is one of the greatest violations of the UN-recognized human rights to water and sanitation. 

While there has been progress in recent years, there are still 28 long term drinking water advisories on reserves 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.

Instead, the Liberal government has been promoting public-private partnerships (P3s) as a solution. History has shown that P3s not only cost more, but they also lead to the privatization of water and a loss of community control and jobs. P3s are not the answer to the drinking water crisis in First Nations. 

The Council of Canadians fights for safe, clean water for everyone. We support Indigenous peoples’ right to self-government and self-determination. Greater control by and for First Nations over water is a basic step toward reconciliation, a requirement of  the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and a necessary precondition to ending drinking water advisories in First Nations for good. 

20+ years
Some of the advisories date as far back as 1995 – like Neskantaga First Nation.

July 2010
In 2010, the United Nations declared water and sanitation human rights, acknowledging they are essential to the realization of all other rights.

A single drinking water advisory can mean as many at 5,000 people lack access to safe, clean drinking water.

73 per cent of First Nations’ water systems are at high or medium risk of contamination.

Lack of access to clean, safe drinking water in First Nations must be fixed for good. While the Federal government pats itself on the back for making progress, dozens of First Nations communities are still waiting. We must keep up the pressure.

Take action! Send a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and tell him it’s time to end drinking water advisories in First Nations.


  • Alternative Federal Budget, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, February 2019, policyalternatives.ca
  • Glass half empty? David Suzuki Foundation and Council of Canadians, February 2017
  • Indigenous Services Canada, Government of Canada, canada.ca/en/indigenous-services-canada.html

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