Ending Long-Term Drinking Water Advisories for Indigenous Communities

Updated: Dec 29, 2020

In 1977, the Canadian Federal government promised to provide Indigenous communities with water and sanitation services comparable to the rest of the population (1). With no national water law, Indigenous communities under Federal jurisdiction had no ‘legal protection’ of their drinking water (2). Due to this, the Federal Government was not held accountable for the lack of clean water on reserves. However, Indigenous communities (e.g. First Nations, Métis and Inuit) have constitutional rights that protect access to safe and clean drinking water. These rights are derived from the following documents:

  • Charter of Rights and Freedoms/Constitution: Indigenous Peoples have a constitutional right to water under sections 7 and 15 of the Charter, and section 36 of the Constitution Act, 1982 (1).

  • United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP Article 25): “Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationships with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard” (3).

  • Resolution 62/242. The Human Right to Water and Sanitation: “Recognizes the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and human rights” (3).

UPDATE FEBRUARY, 2020: More recently, the government promised to lift all long-term drinking water advisories on reserves by March 2021 (4). Since November 2015, 88 long-term drinking water advisories have been lifted in Canada. while 61 remain. This image was adapted from the Government of Canada, updated on February 15th, 2020. Check in on this post to stay updated.

UPDATE OCTOBER 29TH, 2020: Despite previous promises, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would not again commit to ending all long-term drinking water advisories by March 2021. Trudeau stated, "We recognize that there is lots more work to do... Travel restrictions related to COVID-19 have made it more difficult in certain situations" (5).

UPDATE DECEMBER, 2020: An update has been provided regarding the status of long-term drinking water advisories in Canada. To date, 98 long-term drinking water advisories have been lifted, 10 more from February 2020. The government states that 58 long-term drinking water advisories remain, leaving a net change of 3 advisories from February 2020.


Figures were adapted from the Government of Canada (5).

  1. https://www.erudit.org/en/journals/mlj/2011-v57-n1-mlj1824188/1006419ar.pdf

  2. https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/ecojustice/environmental-racism-canadal_b_7224904.html

  3. http://www.onwa.ca/upload/documents/water-commission-toolkit-final.pdf

  4. https://www.sac-isc.gc.ca/eng/1506514143353/1533317130660

  5. https://globalnews.ca/news/7416559/trudeau-boil-water-advisories-first-nations-2021/

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Shake Up The Establishment is a youth-led, registered (#1190975-4) national non-partisan non-profit organization that operates within the geographical confines of what is currently known as "Canada", but what is referred to by its First Peoples, as Turtle Island. Indigenous peoples have inhabited Turtle Island for over 10,000 years, and were the sole inhabitants less than 500 years ago. We acknowledge that our address resides on Treaty 3 land, and is the traditional territory of the Erie, Neutral, Huron-Wendat, Haudenosaunee and Mississaugas Peoples. Turtle Island is still home to many Indigenous peoples and we at SUTE are thankful to be able to live, learn and work on this territory, whilst continuing to create meaningful change for the climate justice movement. We are aware that our actions as an organization and the work we put out have an impact on our land, and on all that inhabit it. We are humbled to be able to follow the lead of centuries long Indigenous-led efforts towards the protection and stewardship of this land and the people that inhabit it. We are committed to continually evaluating & decolonizing our practices, and we do our best to incorporate the lived experiences of the land defenders and protectors within our work. We also want to honour the voices of Black, and non-Black people of colour within our work, and continually recognize their resiliency in the face of years of systemic oppression as imposed by the Canadian state.


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