As of October 2019, there are 58 Indigenous communities across Canada under long term drinking water advisories. Communities that have no running water at all were not considered when this number was tallied. For example, 10% of First Nation communities have no water services. Across Canada, there are approximately 1800 homes on reserve lacking water service and 1777 that are lacking any type of sewage service. The current Federal government has committed to lifting all long-term water advisories by 2021, which means that over 1000 water systems across Indigenous communities will be upgraded or replaced in the next few years.
A considerable number of these communities have been under a water advisory for multiple consecutive years. Neskantaga, a First Nation community in north western Ontario has been on a long term water advisory since 1995. Other communities include Grassy Narrows, Chippewa of Georgina Island, Eabametoong, and Nibinamik, just to name a few.
An advisory is considered “long term” when it has been in place for 1 year or more.
According to Health Canada, there are three types of water advisories;
Indigenous Services Canada provides the funds for designing, constructing, and maintaining systems in First Nations.
This funding is allocated through the Department of Indigenous Services Canada, and includes various phases of action in order to resolve a water issue:
Health Canada helps to monitor the water quality (except for British Columbia as they handed it over to the First Nations Health Authority in 2013) and First Nations are responsible for getting the construction done and the maintenance in place.
Unfortunately, money does not seem to fix the problem. Bringing First Nations and other experts as partners will be step one into fixing this issue. All Canadians need to be aware of this issue and the severity of it. Canadians need to be vocal and join Indigenous champions like 15 year old Autumn Pelletier to make sure that all indigenous peoples are part of a national strategy that will work for everyone.
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