Clean Water: What will you do to make a difference?

Did you know??? In the fall of 2016, 151 drinking water advisories were in effect in First Nations reserves across Canada.

More than 100 water advisories are routinely in effect, with some First Nations reserves living under advisories for nearly 20 years.

Below is A SAMPLE LETTER TO THE MINISTER OF INDIGENOUS AND NORTHERN AFFAIRS, REGARDING CLEAN WATER AND SANITATION, PREPARED FOR YOUR USE BY THE CANADIAN UNITARIAN COUNCIL. PLEASE FEEL FREE TO USE, ADAPT AND SHARE.

March 2017

To The Honourable Carolyn Bennett,
Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6

As a Canadian Unitarian, I am writing to voice concern regarding access to safe, drinkable water and adequate sanitation in Canada.

Canadians need to see a progress report on your promise to eliminate the need for boil water advisories in First Nations by 2021. Further, I suggest advancing the target to 2018 as being both achievable and consistent with the priority. Canada certainly has the technology, and with a more focused effort and resources, this necessity for clean water can surely be provided for all Canadians.

Our Unitarian Universalist Principles guide us to “affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person” and to “respect the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part”. In support of these principles, the Canadian Unitarian Council passed a motion in 2015, that called for all to have the right to clean air, water and soil. Delivering on this right for First Nations is clearly a priority.

A good step towards reconciliation with indigenous peoples would be to ensure clean drinking water is available to all First Nation communities. Clean water is a human right. Unsafe drinking water in First Nations isn’t just an Indigenous issue — it’s also a Canadian issue. How can there be reconciliation in a country where many First Nations experience chronic water issues, while neighbouring municipalities enjoy reliable access to safe, clean drinking water?

Your government’s own expert advisory panel states that in order to ensure water and sanitation in First Nations communities meets the standards enjoyed by other people in Canada, the resource gap in infrastructure and training must be closed. The barrier created by federal policies and procedures for funding must be remodeled or removed if the water needs of First Nations are to be met in a fair and timely way. The advisory panel also called for immediate measures to address the needs of those First Nations communities that have no running water or sewage.

I therefore support the recommendations of the David Suzuki Foundation in asking the federal government to:
• Be transparent about its progress toward ending drinking water advisories in First Nations;
• Simplify the process to ensure bureaucracy does not impede steps toward ending the drinking water crisis; and
• Support a First Nations-led approach to drinking water.

Access to safe drinkable water and adequate sanitation are basic human rights. No one should be denied this right. Further delays are inexcusable.