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Federal party leaders urged to end drinking water crisis in First Nation communities once and for all

InfographicOver ninety First Nation communities and allied organizations sent an open letter to federal party leaders today urging them to prioritize funding commitments to end the drinking water crises in Indigenous communities.

The letter reads, “Despite repeated pledges from the federal government to ensure clean drinking water, there are routinely over 100 water advisories in effect in First Nation communities, with some communities living under advisories for over 10 years.” Based on Health Canada and the First Nations Health Authority’s latest figures, there are a total of 162 drinking water advisories in 118 First Nation communities.

Last week, Neskantaga First Nation demanded action from federal parties on its 20-year boil-water advisory, the longest running drinking water advisory in Canada.

The groups are calling on federal party leaders to:

  • commit to investing $470 million annually for the next 10 years in First Nations water treatment and wastewater systems
  • implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the human right to water and sanitation


“Our leaders have long sought an end to a century of forced isolation and Canada has ignored our calls, ” said Shoal Lake 40 Chief Erwin Redsky. “The very water that blocks our safe passage is diverted to serve Winnipeg’s drinking fountains and water slides while our people suffer under an 18 year boil water advisory.  How can there be any reconciliation in a country where this kind of inequality is acceptable?”

 “Grassy Narrows has resorted to calling a state of emergency because our drinking water is so contaminated with mercury and other toxins,” said Grassy Narrows Chief Roger Fobister. “Our situation is urgent and has been going on for far too long. What will it take for people in power to pay attention and take action?”

“It is unacceptable in a wealthy country like Canada that almost 20% of First Nation communities live under daily water stress due to lack of access to safe and potable water. This must be a priority for Canada in closing the gap in First Nation health and safety,” stated Perry Bellegarde, National Chief for the Assembly of First Nations.

“It is truly appalling that the violation of Indigenous water rights and the human right to water has continued for so long in Canada,” said Maude Barlow, national chairperson for the Council of Canadians. “This is an opportunity for federal party leaders to finally do right and commit to the funding needed to end the water crisis for Indigenous peoples once and for all.”

“My Canada includes clean drinking water for First Nation communities; clean drinking water is a human right and must be a priority for any government poised to lead this country,” said Dr. Faisal Moola, Director General, Ontario and Northern Canada of the David Suzuki Foundation.

 "It's also shocking that there are almost 2000 First Nations homes without water service at all," said Amnesty International Canada Secretary General Alex Neve. "This crisis is the direct result of years of federal underfunding of on-reserve drinking water systems."

The signatories include the Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, Assembly of First Nations, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, Council of Canadians, Amnesty International, David Suzuki Foundation, Public Service Alliance of Canada, Canadian Federation of Students, Polaris Institute and other Indigenous communities and allied organizations.

The letter can be read here.