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1 in 4 people in First Nations reserves may lack clean water, says Council of Canadians

Tap water photo

The Council of Canadians says new analysis of Health Canada and B.C.’s First Nations Health Authority data shows that up to one in four people may not have clean water on First Nation reserves.

“It is truly appalling that families in First Nations have gone without clean drinking water for so long  – many for five years or more,” says Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “There hasn’t been measurable change in years; the number of drinking water advisories remains at roughly the same level as in 2010.”

The analysis shows that up to 72,000 people could have been affected by drinking water advisories (DWAs) in First Nations at the start of 2017. Definitive numbers on affected populations were not readily available. Forty, or nearly one quarter, of the DWAs were for systems for which the number of people impacted was unknown.

“With the federal budget coming out on World Water Day, now is the time for the Trudeau government to show its commitment to ending drinking water advisories in First Nations within four years,” says Barlow. “The Trudeau government has the opportunity to demonstrate genuine leadership in implementing the human right to water.”

“Adequate funding is a crucial first step, but it must be matched with reducing barriers for First Nations to accessing funding and restoring and enhancing water protections,” says Emma Lui, water campaigner for the Council of Canadians. “The federal government must also obtain free, prior and informed consent for projects that threaten water sources as required by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. These are critical steps to ensuring clean water for generations to come.”

Last month, the David Suzuki Foundation and the Council of Canadians released Glass half empty? Year 1 progress toward resolving drinking water advisories in nine First Nations in Ontario, which found that the process for attaining clean and safe drinking water for First Nations remains flawed. The report makes 12 recommendations that must be implemented in order for the federal government to maintain progress toward its goal of ending long-term DWAs.

Read more here.