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61 Indigenous Communities in Canada Still Face Water Crisis

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Clean water and sanitation is essential to ensuring good health and ending extreme poverty. The United Nations’ Global Goal 6 urges countries to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. You can join us and take action on this issue here.

Canada is one of the wealthiest and most water-rich countries in the world. Yet many of its First Nations communities continue to lack safe drinking water — a basic human right.

As of February, 61 Indigenous reserves were under long-term drinking water advisories, half of which remain unresolved after more than a decade. These water advisories warn people to either boil water before use, not to consume it, or avoid it altogether because of toxicity levels. 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has vowed to end these advisories by March 2021. But while the government presented action plans on many important topics during the speech from the throne on Sept. 23, it failed to mention its promise to bring safe drinking water to all Indigenous reserves by next spring.

The lack of acknowledgement in this year’s speech has led some Canadians to doubt the government’s ability to meet the deadline. 

A senior government source told CBC News that the government is no longer as comfortable with the target date as they were before COVID-19 hit the country. The pandemic has made it more difficult for construction workers to enter communities, potentially resulting in a delay in resolving these critical water supply issues.

“It should not take that long to … improve people’s lives on reserves and in communities when [the government] can do much, much more for regular Canadians at the drop of a hat when something like COVID-19 hits,” said Rob Houle, an Indigenous advocate from Swan River First Nation.