Ending Long-Term Drinking Water Advisories for Indigenous Communities

Updated: Mar 13

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.


UPDATE MARCH, 2021: The Federal Government announces a new strategy to track the progress of lifting long-term water advisories, with no new funding or target date. The new tracking system is a website developed with an Indigenous developer (Animikii) where each community will have their own web page with detailed plan and progress reports (6). The most recent report on the old site was updated on March 9th, 2021 (4).

Final numbers (4, 6):

There were 105 long-term drinking water advisories in November 2015

101 long-term drinking water advisories lifted since

There have been 58 long-term drinking water advisories added to the list

Today, 58 long-term drinking water advisories remain in 38 communities


Figures were adapted from the Government of Canada (4).

  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/

  6. https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/ottawa-new-strategy-long-term-drinking-water-advisories-1.5943388?cmp=rss

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