Council of Canadians expresses solidarity to First Nations for drinking water lawsuit

June 19, 2014
Media Release

The Council of Canadians is expressing solidarity to Tsuu T'ina, Ermineskin, Sucker Creek and Blood First Nations for their lawsuit against the federal government for its failure to provide safe drinking water.

“We stand in solidarity with these four First Nations and every other Indigenous nation that the federal government has failed to provide clean, safe drinking water,” says Maude Barlow, national chairperson for the Council of Canadians. “It is utterly shameful that that the Harper government has allowed this human rights violation to continue. This is a stark reminder to the Harper government that it has a legal obligation to uphold the human right to water and sanitation.”

The Statement of Claim filed on June 16, 2014 by the four nations outlines how Canada’s conduct in creating and maintaining unsafe drinking water conditions on First Nation reserves is in breach of sections 7 and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as section 36(1)(c) of the Constitution Act which outlines the provision of essential services.

“The 2011 National Assessment found the federal government is out of compliance with its own regulations. The Harper government continues to show a troubling disregard for the rule of law and simply changes laws when it doesn’t like them,” says Emma Lui, water campaigner for the Council of Canadians. “Not only has the Harper government failed to provide safe drinking water to 73 percent of Indigenous communities but it has actively removed environmental safeguards that protect drinking water sources. The gutting of environmental legislation has increased the risks of pipelines, fracking, tar sands development and other extreme energy projects to drinking water.”

The National Assessment of First Nations Water and Wastewater completed in 2011 found that 73 percent of water systems in First Nation reserves are at high or medium risk and that $1.2 billion was required to meet the federal government’s own protocols for safe water and wastewater.

Based on the National Assessment, the Council of Canadians and the Alternative Federal Budget are demanding that $4.7 billion be allocated to drinking water in Indigenous communities as part of a sorely needed national water policy.

Earlier this year Lui wrote letters to Prime Minister hopefuls Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair asking whether they would commit to allocating the $4.7 billion needed to ensure that water and wastewater systems are able to grow with First Nation communities over a 10-year period.

“Leading up to the federal election in October 2015, we’re hoping that Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau and NDP leader Thomas Mulcair will make firm commitments to the $4.7 billion that is badly needed to bring water systems in First Nation reserves up to the same standards as many Canadian municipalities,” adds Lui.

-30-