World Water Day is an opportunity for us to consider the essential, life-sustaining role of water in our lives and to take action. Clean water is accessible to most of us in Canada at the turn of a tap. The situation in our First Nations‚Äô communities, 73% of which have water systems that are at high or medium risk of contamination, is very different. 168 drinking water advisories were issued in 120 First Nations‚Äô communities in the fall of 2015. Some communities have been living under advisories for nearly 20 years. This is a crisis that must not go on.
Over 5 years ago, the U.N. General Assembly recognized water and sanitation as human rights. The U.N. Human Rights Council recommended that governments pay special attention to vulnerable communities and take steps to ensure that they have access to clean water. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has committed to ending boil-water advisories in Indigenous communities within five years. This is laudable. We need to see evidence that he is standing behind that commitment in the March 22 budget.
The Council of Canadians is pressing the government to go even further: to create a Ministry of Water to carry out urgently needed expansion of water protections on many levels including support for public water and water infrastructure, reinstatement of water science and research programs, and assessment of the impacts of mining and energy development projects. Under international law, the federal government is responsible for protecting our water. Few responsibilities are more critical to our well being. For our sake, and for future generations, we all need to insist that they allocate adequate funds and resources, and create legislation to fulfill our fundamental human right to clean, safe water for everyone.
Council of Canadians, P.E.I. Chapter