Archive for November, 2010

Right to water and sanitation is legally binding, affirms key UN body

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010
A young boy getting a drink of water from an open pipe.

1 October 2010 – The main United Nations body dealing with human rights has affirmed that the right to water and sanitation is contained in existing human rights treaties, and that States have the primary responsibility to ensure the full realisation of this and all other basic human rights.

While the General Assembly declared in July that safe and clean drinking water and sanitation is a human right essential to the full enjoyment of life and all other human rights, this is the first time that the Human Rights Council has declared itself on the issue.

“This means that for the UN, the right to water and sanitation, is contained in existing human rights treaties and is therefore legally binding,” said the UN Independent Expert on human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque.

“This landmark decision has the potential to change the lives of the billions of human beings who still lack access to water and sanitation,” she said of the resolution adopted yesterday by the Geneva-based Council.

Almost 900 million people worldwide do not have access to clean water and more than 2.6 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation. Studies also indicate about 1.5 million children under the age of five die each year and 443 million school days are lost because of water- and sanitation-related diseases.

The Assembly’s resolution recognized the fundamental right to clean water and sanitation, but did not specify that the right entailed legally binding obligations.

The Council closed this gap by clarifying the foundation for recognition of the right and the legal standards which apply, according to a news release.

“The right to water and sanitation is a human right, equal to all other human rights, which implies that it is justiciable and enforceable,” said Ms. de Albuquerque. “Hence from today onwards we have an even greater responsibility to concentrate all our efforts in the implementation and full realization of this essential right.”

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs – ‘Water is a Human Right’ campaign

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

This article was posted on Nation Talk,  2010/11/22

LINK to article.

Water is considered a basic human right according to many international treaties, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

But in CANADA, running water is not available to INDIGENOUS PEOPLE living in Manitoba. The Island Lake area of four reserves has a population of 10,000 and half of its homes DO NOT HAVE RUNNING WATER.

The Indigenous people of the Island Lake region have less clean water than people living in refugee camps overseas.

This isn’t happening in the third world, it’s happening in one of the WORLD’S RICHEST COUNTRIES.

Indigenous people in Canada live in third world conditions and MOST CANADIANS are NOT even AWARE of it.

If you CARE ABOUT PEOPLE in this country, if you are ASHAMED OF OUR GOVERNMENT and the way it treats Indigenous people, then take a stand.

Why should CANADA’S INDIGENOUS people be treated like THIRD WORLD CITIZENS?

Join us in the “WATER IS A HUMAN RIGHT” campaign to make Canada adhere to the same standards the United Nations says are rights FOR ALL.

We have prepaid postcards to the Prime Minister of Canada using the image above. They are available at AMC, 2nd floor, 275 Portage Ave., Winnipeg. You can also sign the online petition on the right or join our facebook group, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

For More Information:
Winnipeg Free Press: No Running Water

Is an investigative series of the lack of running water on First Nations Communities in the Island Lake region of Manitoba, for full story and details please visit:
United nation general assembly declares access to clean water and sanitation is a human right:
28 July 2010 – Safe and clean drinking water and sanitation is a human right essential to the full enjoyment of life and all other human rights, the General Assembly declared today, voicing deep concern that almost 900 million people worldwide do not have access to clean water.

UN News Centre

Winnipeg Free Press – Poor sanitation, poor health
(story on Jacob Flett, child in postcard campaign photo)

United Nations News Centre
1 October 2010 – The main United Nations body dealing with human rights has affirmed that the right to water and sanitation is contained in existing human rights treaties, and that States have the primary responsibility to ensure the full realization of this and all other basic human rights.
While the General Assembly declared in July that safe and clean drinking water and sanitation is a human right essential to the full enjoyment of life and all other human rights, this is the first time that the Human Rights Council has declared itself on the issue….
Right to water and sanitation is legally binding, affirms key UN body

World Health Organization

Assembly of First Nations

Council for Canadians: Acting for Social Justice

Right to Water

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

Please go to the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and sign the ‘Water is a Human Right’ petition.


This postcard is produced by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

Please download and print your own postcard and mail.

Note from Empty Glass for Water… please mail an empty glass for water to the Prime Minister of Canada asking him to get safe water to our communities in Manitoba! Miigwech.

LATEST NEWS: Manitoba Chiefs push for road in north, Route touted as key to get First Nations some running water

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

By Helen Fallding, Winnipeg Free Press, Nov 16/10


Speeding up construction of a $1.4-billion all-weather road from Norway House to Island Lake is the best way to ensure thousands of First Nations residents get running water, their chiefs said Monday.

The chiefs from Wasagamack, St. Theresa Point, Garden Hill and Red Sucker Lake flew to Winnipeg for a news conference at the Island Lake Tribal Council office, where they joined Manitoba Grand Chief Ron Evans in calling on the federal government to help pay for the road. All plumbing and construction supplies now have to be brought in via an ice road that was open for less than four weeks this year.


“We need to expedite the road that goes into that region,” Evans said, referring to the east-west route announced last week by the East Side Road Authority. A previous proposal for a road all the way up the east side of Lake Winnipeg was rejected because it would have been 168 kilometres longer.

“The province tells us that it would take 30 years… to build a road into that region if there’s no federal support,” the grand chief said.

He estimates that with federal help, the road could be built in less than 10 years. So far, the provincial government has committed $93 million — with more expected in today’s throne speech — and the federal government has committed nothing.

Ten more years is a long time for families to wait when they’re getting sick from overflowing outhouses and hauling water buckets from outdoor taps, so St. Theresa Point Chief David McDougall has started work on an emergency plan to protect the health of his people until multimillion-dollar piping can be installed.

He estimates that 364 outhouses need to be built on concrete pads in his community alone, and 314 water containers installed that hold at least the 350 litres per family per day needed to meet United Nations minimum health standards. Trucks would need to be bought and drivers hired to suck out sewage from the outhouses and deliver clean water.

McDougall said some homes likely don’t have driveways usable by delivery trucks, so road access work would also be required.

None of that can be done within existing budgets, the chief said. He said First Nations are criticized for running deficits when they try to meet local needs with an inadequate budget, when Indian Affairs should instead be accused of running a humanitarian deficit.

That department directed questions by the Free Press to Infrastructure Canada. In an email, Infrastructure Canada said it has not received a formal request from the Manitoba government for funding for new all-weather roads for the Island Lake region. “While most Infrastructure Canada funding has already been committed under existing sources of funds, if a proposal is received, it will be examined in the context of available funding.”

NDP MP Niki Ashton, who represents northern Manitoba, said she has raised the issue of roads to northeastern Manitoba numerous times in the House of Commons. She wondered why the federal government doesn’t make a long-term commitment to an all-weather road instead of spending money every year on ice-road maintenance, flying in emergency supplies and medevacs. The road would also open up possibilities for economic development like mines and tourism. “The fact that we’re able to send somebody to the moon 50 years ago just speaks to the imbalance when it comes to First Nations and not being able to build a road.”

McDougall said it costs about $25,000 to connect each home to existing water lines from his community’s treatment plant. He got plumbing only after his home burned down, making him eligible for a newer house. Garden Hill Chief Dino Flett is lucky enough to live on the side of town that got funding a few years ago for water hookup.

McDougall said he grew up in a family that managed to keep clean without running water by assigning all 11 kids chores. He said the unhealthy grime in some Island Lake homes is partly due to the “malaise” that sets in when people feel hopeless after generations of disruption by residential schools, adoption by outsiders and failed urban relocation programs.

As a former school principal, he believes in the power of education. “I’ve been trying to encourage people to look after a certain plot of land.”

The chiefs thanked the Free Press for a recent series of articles drawing attention to the water and sewer problems in Island Lake. (LINK:

“We are very much in Third World conditions back in Island Lake,” McDougall said. “The rest of the country never knew about it.”

Leader threatens to take road, water issues global

If the federal government does not take rapid action on an all-season road and emergency water and sewer solutions, Island Lake leaders will be forced to call on the international community, said St. Theresa Point Chief David McDougall, who chairs the Island Lake Tribal Council.

He said he would consider calling in humanitarian organizations that serve Africa and the Middle East.

The Winnipeg-based Mennonite Central Committee is already discussing whether it can help, following a series of Free Press stories highlighting the desperate living conditions in the Island Lake region.

Executive director Peter Rempel said the charity, which usually focuses its efforts overseas, is trying to arrange a meeting with Northern Manitoba Grand Chief David Harper. MCC wants his advice and the advice of local leaders and churches on “practical immediate solutions we could offer to alleviate the situation somewhat.” Macdonald Youth Services has already donated to the Island Lake Tribal Council some plastic water containers with spigots and cash to purchase rain barrels.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs will consider setting up a charitable foundation if it doesn’t get a quick response from St. Boniface MP Shelly Glover, who is parliamentary secretary for Indian Affairs, Grand Chief Ron Evans said.

The chiefs will distribute postcards showing an Island Lake child suffering from a water-related skin condition that they hope Manitobans will send to their MPs.


“No Running Water”, Winnipeg Free Press

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

A special investigation by asst. city editor Helen Fallding and photojournalist Joe Bryksa, partially funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Please go to this link and…

  1. view the film
  2. read the numerous articles
  3. view the slideshows

This is an incredibly informative body of work exposing 3rd world conditions in Canada.

Our elders, babies, neighbours, should not be living without safe water and sanitation.

Please visit this site…


Helen Fallding: “Encourage your church or favourite charity to consider raising money for emergency supplies to help northern communities reduce health risks while they wait for government funding of expensive new water infrastructure. Free soap, towels, rainwater tanks and water containers with spigots would be a godsend in Island Lake communities where people are so poor soap has been stolen from school washrooms and water buckets from the delivery program for elders. Perhaps Porta-Potties could be set up for those without decent outhouses.”

Note to readers: If you find a charity willing to help improve water and sanitation on First Nations, email so we can write a story alerting other readers who want to help.

National Chief Welcomes Canada’s Endorsement of UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Respect, Partnership and Reconciliation will Guide Work to Improve the situation of First Nation Peoples and Build a Stronger Canada

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

OTTAWA, Nov. 12 /CNW/ – Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo stated that Canada’s endorsement of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a positive development that sets the stage for a new approach to building stronger First Nations and a stronger Canada.

“Today marks an important shift in our relationship and now the real work begins,” National Chief Atleo said. “Now is our time to work together towards a new era of fairness and justice for First Nations and a stronger Canada for all Canadians, guided by the Declaration’s core principles of respect, partnership and reconciliation.  First Nations have worked long and hard to set out constructive and effective approaches and to abandon the colonial relationship embodied in the Indian Act that has held back our people and this country. We are ready to move now – today – on our key priorities including education.”

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the UN General Assembly on September 13, 2007. Canada committed to endorsing the UN Declaration in the 2010 Speech from the Throne.  The UNDRIP has the distinction of being the only Declaration within the United Nations which was drafted with the rights-holders, themselves, the Indigenous Peoples of the world.

“Today is important, not as the culmination of our efforts, but as the beginning of a new approach and a new agenda,” the National Chief stated. “Canada’s apology for the residential schools in 2008 was a critical moment to acknowledge the pain of the past. Endorsing the Declaration is the opportunity to look forward and re-set the relationship between First Nations and the Crown so it is consistent with the Treaties and other agreements with First Nations upon which this country was founded.  In endorsing the UN Declaration, Canada is committing to work with us as a true partner to achieve reconciliation as instructed by the courts in Canada.

I congratulate Canada in taking another step towards the promotion and protection of human and fundamental freedoms for all.”

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations in Canada.


Canada endorses the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

“The Declaration is a visionary step towards addressing the human rights of indigenous peoples” proclaimed United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “[I]t provides a momentous opportunity for States and indigenous peoples to … promote reconciliation and ensure that the past is not repeated.”

What does this mean for First Nations?

Canadian First Nation leaders have been directly involved in the development and negotiation of the UN Declaration (UNDRIP) for over twenty years.  In 2007, the UNDRIP passed at the United Nations. Canada was one of only four countries along with Australia, New Zealand and the United States to vote in opposition to the UNDRIP.

First Nation leaders advocated strongly for the UNDRIP as a framework for advancing First Nations rights, dignity, survival, security and well-being.  Assembly of First Nations’ resolution No. 37/2007 called on the Government of Canada to endorse the UN Declaration without delay.

Now three years later, Canada, today, has endorsed the Declaration.  While this in itself doesn’t address our urgent needs, it does say that Canada is listening and that Canada is willing to work with us to achieve the standards set out in the UNDRIP. Furthermore, the UNDRIP will inform and guide the discussion regarding the meaning and implementation of treaty and aboriginal rights as guaranteed in the Constitution Act, 1982.

We do take exception to the statement that the UNDRIP does not reflect customary international law. However, with the endorsement, we can now move forward to address the full range of issues.  From our preliminary assessment, Canada’s statement is consistent with both Australia and New Zealand’s statement of endorsement.  The United States has yet to endorse the Declaration however President Obama has engaged Tribal governments in broad nation-to-nation talks.

We have much important work to do. With the UNDRIP as a guide, we can re-set our relationship with Canada aligned with our original relationship and rights enshrined in Treaty.

The AFN and National Chief will work immediately to seek commitment from Canada to move forward on priority issues as mandated by the Chiefs in Assembly including education. In addition, we will call on Canada to convene a First Nations-Crown Gathering as a key step forward in affirming our nation-to-nation relationships.


For more information please contact Karen Campbell at or

613-241-6789, ext 263.

For further information:Jenna Young, Communications Officer, Assembly of First Nations 613-241-6789, ext 401, 613-314-8175 (mobile), or

Alain Garon, Bilingual Communications Officer, Assembly of First Nations 613-241-6789, ext 382 or

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Bill, Second Reading—Debate Continued

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

On the Order: Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Brazeau, seconded by the Honourable Senator Lang, for the second reading of Bill S-11, An Act respecting the safety of drinking water on first nation lands.

Hon. Charlie Watt: [Senator Watt spoke in Inuktitut.]

Honourable senators, I thank the government for making clean drinking water for First Nations a priority. We all agree that the right to clean drinking water is important to all Canadians, and we want legislation that addresses this issue.

My concern with Bill S-11 is the impact of clause 4(1)(r) on the rights of Aboriginal peoples in this country. In particular, regulations under this act would abrogate or derogate from our constitutionally protected rights under section 35 of the Charter.

It is my role as an Aboriginal senator to bring these elements to the attention of honourable senators as we study this bill.

The special trust relationship and the responsibility of the government to Aboriginal peoples must be our first consideration in determining whether the legislation can be justified. We must ensure that fair resources are available and that the Aboriginal nations in question are properly consulted at the earliest stage.

This issue of trust is a delicate matter. At the tip of the iceberg, Aboriginal leaders are wondering why this legislation is being introduced. It appears to be about water quality but the wording of it has many in the Aboriginal community questioning whether there is more to this legislation than meets the eye.

Aboriginal leaders have asked me about the justification for this bill. We are concerned by the wording of this particular bill because it takes a position that is very different from the recommendations made by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in their 2007 report titled: Taking Section 35 Rights Seriously: Non-derogation Clauses relating to Aboriginal and treaty rights.

In this report we are reminded of the scope of section 35 rights, as we are from the Sparrow decision at the Supreme Court of Canada. This report is an excellent overview of the responsibility of the Crown.

I am also concerned because this bill seems to contradict the recommendations in the 2007 report of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples on the subject of safe drinking water in First Nations communities. In this report on the issue of resource allocation, Dr. Harry Swain, Chair of the Expert Panel of Safe Drinking Water for First Nations, said his personal conclusion is that if we want to see the completion of what has been a fairly considerable national effort to get good water on Indian reserves, then we should worry about the basic resources first and about a regulatory regime later.

On the point of consultation, the Supreme Court of Canada has elaborated on the legal requirement for this study to consult. As we consider Bill S-11, it seems that clause 4(1)(r) suggests that the Crown contemplated that the forthcoming regulations might have a negative or adverse affect on Aboriginal rights or titles protected under section 35.

Honourable senators, I am troubled by the precedent we are setting. The way I see it, the government is venturing into provincial jurisdiction and outside of parliamentary scrutiny with this bill. On the issue of section 35 rights, I again refer honourable senators back to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs report, which says:

This approach appears to establish a precedent for dealing with non-derogation of Aboriginal and treaty rights as a regulatory matter rather than addressing the issue explicitly in legislation, with obvious implications for Parliamentary scrutiny.

On this note, I would like to state for the record that I have met with Assembly of First Nations representatives and received written correspondence from those who are alarmed by the actions of this government actions which seem to be forcing them into a serious agreement with a yet-unknown third party without adequate consultation.

I remind those who are new to this chamber that Aboriginal peoples have struggled for generations to achieve legitimacy at the negotiating table. We take the issue of consultation and respect seriously.

Although I do not often speak of this, honourable senators, Aboriginal leaders carry a tremendous burden; their communities and their families have paid dearly for our involvement in political life. My involvement in the repatriation of the Constitution is one of the highlights of my career; the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement is the other. In both of these proceedings I was honoured to negotiate on behalf of my people, but I did so at great personal expense.

Honourable senators, although those issues may seem old news to some, the embers of those political battles still burn in the hearts of those who negotiated with the government. Some of us have lived through the bitter and violent days of negotiations. We made advancements for our people, at a cost.

Although we have achieved much, it appears that Aboriginal people still have less respect from the government and we still do not enjoy the same equality provided to other Canadians. The fact that this bill contemplates abrogating Aboriginal rights through regulation that will not be scrutinized by Parliament is an embarrassment to Canadians and it is offensive to Native leaders. Once again it seems that government is trying to out-muscle us in a publicly humiliating way.

Honourable senators, as I conclude my remarks, I would suggest that we have many potential problems with the bill in its current form. We are not working from a position of trust, we have not heard any solid justification for this bill in any of the government’s own reports, there is no provision for the resources in this bill and the consultations with the First Nations were weak. I repeat, they were weak.

Honourable senators, it is our duty to ensure that Aboriginal and treaty rights are protected. We must insist on the cooperative framework between the Government of Canada and First Nations because that is the Constitution we live with today. (On motion of Senator Mitchell, debate adjourned.)