Updated: Sep 6, 2019
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).
More recently, the government promised to lift all long-term drinking water advisories on reserves by March 2021 (4). Since November 2015, 87 water advisories have been lifted and 56 remain (4). Check in on this post to stay updated.