Human Rights Blogger
One Nation, Two Worlds
For most Canadians, waking up in the morning entails getting out of bed, brushing our teeth using tap water and then hopping in the shower to get ready for the day. Unfortunately, on many First Nations reserves across Canada, tap water is replaced with stovetop boiled water and long showers are sparse, as the water conditions within these reserves greatly resembles the water in third world countries.
It’s unthinkable for most of us to have to boil our water before its safe to drink – or even to wash up with! Imaging having to wait up to 20, or even 30 minutes for your water to be safe enough to wash your hands in. Waking up in the middle of the night for a quick drink of water turns into 30 minute long waits just for a few sips. But these are some of the realities for families living in many reserves.
According to Health Canada, “as of August 31, 2016, there were 132 Drinking Water Advisories in effect in 89 First Nations communities across Canada.”2 Although this statistic is new, the water advisories across reserves in Canada have been occurring for over 20 years in places such as the Neskantaga First Nation community in Ontario.1
Canada has one of the safest drinking waters in the world, and the water in most of our taps at home, work, and school have gone through a rigorous filtering process; so the question remains, why are there still 132 drinking water advisories in communities throughout Canada and as close to home as Ontario?
One of the main reasons for this would be communication, or lack there of between the Canadian government and these communities. Millions of dollars over the years has been poured into rectifying this issue, yet there are nearly a hundred communities still struggling to receive the basic living necessity of clean water. Lalita Bharadwaj, an associate professor at the University of Saskatchewan’s School of Public Health has backed up this observation. She mentions in an interview with CBC News that the government had spent around $2 billion dollars on this issue so far, but the status on the reserves has seemed to remain the same.
There’s hope at the end of the tunnel though. The Safe Water Project, a pilot project spearheaded by the Keewaytinook Okimakanak First Nations community in 2015 has been pushing for certified training in local water plant usage and further implementations of water filtration systems to supply clean drinking water to reserves.3 Not only is this initiative working to get better, cleaner water for First Nations communities; it is also fostering knowledge and education within these communities.
1 Levasseur, J. (2015). Bad water: ‘Third World’ conditions on First Nations in Canada. Retrieved October 14, 2016, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/bad-water-third-world-conditions-on-first-nations-in-canada-1.3269500
2 Government of Canada. (2016). Retrieved October 14, 2016, from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fniah-spnia/promotion/public-publique/water-eau-eng.php
3 Porter, J. (2016). Safe drinking water on First Nations gets $4M boost from federal government – Thunder Bay – CBC News. Retrieved October 14, 2016, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/safe-water-project-1.3803856
4 Photo Credit: CBC News