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UN Resolution States Clean Water and Sanitation a Human Right: AFN National Chief Calls for Action to Advance Resolution in Canada

Friday, July 30th, 2010

AFN Press Release

OTTAWA, July 29 /CNW Telbec/ – The Assembly of First Nations welcomes the United Nations General Assembly resolution declaring clean water and sanitation to be a human right. More than 124 Nations voted yesterday for the resolution brought forward by the country of Bolivia. 884 million people around the world still suffer from a lack of access to drinking water.

“This is welcome news for First Nations people and communities who are struggling to access safe drinking water and sanitation,” said National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo. “This resolution establishes new international standards and, in affirming that clean water and sanitation are a basic human right, compels Canada to work with First Nations to ensure our people enjoy the same quality of water and sanitation as the rest of Canada.”

As of June 2010, 114 First Nations communities across the country were under Drinking Water Advisories and 49 First Nations water systems were classified as “high risk”. Some of these communities have been under a Drinking Water Advisory for 10 years or longer.

“The situation facing First Nations would not be tolerated in any other community or city in Canada,” National Chief Atleo stated. “It is shameful that these conditions are allowed to fester in a country as rich as Canada. This is about nothing less than the health and safety of First Nations children. It is time to act to address longstanding inequity in infrastructure and training to enhance and support safe drinking water systems. The current approach of Canada to focus on regulation will not address these inequities and this is why we are calling for a joint effort to address underlying problems as the real solution.”

Canada was one of 41 nations who abstained from the vote on this resolution. The Assembly of First Nations calls on Canada, as a member of the United Nations, to respect the resolution and engage in real action with First Nations to make sure efforts and resources are in place to honour the right to safe drinking water and sanitation. A resolution passed at the AFN’s recent Annual General Assembly in Winnipeg, Manitoba called for advocacy and action to affirm First Nations rights and interests with respect to First Nations water.

AFN Regional Chief for Nova Scotia-Newfoundland Rick Simon stated: “Canada has committed to endorsing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and the UN resolution passed yesterday is consistent with principles in the Declaration that states Indigenous peoples have an equal right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. The AFN has put forward many plans and initiatives on this issue and we look forward to working with Canada to honour and implement this resolution.”

The United Nations resolution calls on “States and international organizations to provide financial resources, build capacity and transfer technology, particularly to developing countries, in scaling up efforts to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all.”

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

For further information: Alain Garon, Bilingual Communications Officer, Assembly of First Nations, 613-241-6789 ext. 382, cell: 613-292-0857 or; Don Kelly, A/Director of Communications, Assembly of First Nations, 613-241-6789 ext. 334, cell 613-292-2787 or

10-07-29 Press Release UN Water and Sanitation_English PDF

10-07-29 Press Release UN Water and Sanitation_French PDF

Assembly of First Nations, 31st Annual General Assembly, DRAFT AGENDA

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

Winnipeg Convention Centre, July 20-22, 2010

I get to attend this event for the first time! Bing Leblanc, the AFN water specialist is tentatively scheduled to speak on Thursday at 1pm on “Water Rights. I’m not sure if they are webcasting this time, but you can learn more at their micro-site: AFN AGA Micro-site. You can also get updated agendas there, and view the resolutions that were submitted.

AFN 31st AGA Draft Agenda PDF

Drinking Water Advisories in Distribution Systems in First Nations Communities South of 60, June 2010

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

DWA_Monthly Report June 2010 PDF

Total number of communities with advisories = 114

Budget Day announcements still not enough for Aboriginal women

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

This is an older article from 2008 that I found on the Native Women’s Association of Canada website. I wanted to include it because it is still relevant today. There was something said in it, that I think is important to think about…What is the point of improving standards for drinking water on reserve, when there is a housing crisis with no access to water?” My friend’s family lives with overcrowding in a Northern Ontario community. No water is hooked up to the house, and they needed more places to sleep so they took out all the bathroom fixtures to make another bedroom.

Money… infrastructure… resources…. zhoonyia… whatever you want to call it… we’re in short supply. There is something I learned not too long ago about federal funding… “the funding that the federal government gives to First Nation communities is less than half of what is available to federal, provincial and municipal governments to provide services to the non-Indigenous population of Canada.”* Remember this and share it, and question why it is this way.

*from the book: Denying the Source, The Crisis of First Nations Water Rights by Merrell-Ann S Phare.  Rocky Mountain Books, 2009. Page 11-12.

Ottawa, ON (February 26, 2008) – The third budget announced by the Conservative government still did not provide enough for Aboriginal women in Canada. The President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), Beverley Jacobs, was in Ottawa today to listen to budget deliberations.

Of importance to NWAC, today’s budget included a few investments for First Nations peoples in Canada, including improved child and family services on reserve, as well as increased health and education outcomes. Further, the announcements to improve access to safe drinking water for First Nations were welcomed; however, there are over 600 First Nations communities in Canada and the amount of the investments are no where near what is needed.

“This budget is a far cry from what is needed for Aboriginal peoples in Canada,” said President Jacobs. “What is the point of improving standards for drinking water on reserve, when there is a housing crisis with no access to water? When this government chose not to honour the Kelowna Accord, it promised an alternative plan for Aboriginal peoples. This budget delivers small investments, but we are still awaiting a ground-breaking strategy to finally pull the most marginalized segment of the Canadian population out of its current mire and onto a path towards prosperity. The commitments that were announced today are welcomed and are much needed; yet, in my perspective they are handouts and not strategically invested.”

President Jacobs hopes that the hiring of 2,500 more police officers will assist in resolving the hundreds of unresolved murder cases of Aboriginal women across the country. She hopes NWAC will have the resources to work with Correctional Services Canada to improve the human rights issues for federally sentenced Aboriginal women and reduce the highest percentage of the prison population.

These investments are still lacking in addressing the many issues facing Aboriginal women in Canada. President Jacobs added: “Like last year, I am disappointed that this budget contained no new commitments towards advancing the equality of women with no reference whatsoever to Aboriginal women or Métis. Work towards a new Action Plan was announced, but it comes as no surprise that we are seeing no immediate advancements and still do not experience equality today from the recent cuts to the Status of Women. A culturally relevant gender based analysis is crucial to all programming of the federal government.”

“What I find the most stunning is that Canada is doubling international aid to $5 billion, which is honourable. But why is it not doubling its efforts in combating poverty in its own back yard?” commented President Jacobs.

President Jacobs expressed caution on the idea of toppling the government. “While the government is still not doing enough and Minister Flaherty is playing petty politics in refusing to allow amendments to the budget, the defeat of the government and an election would delay important legislation that needs to be passed, including C-21, the long awaited amendment of the Canadian Human Rights Act.”
NWAC is an aggregate of 13 native women’s organizations and is the national voice of Aboriginal women in Canada.

For further information:
Joshua Kirkey, Media Coordinator
(613) 290-5680
mobile, (613) 722-3033
ext. 231, toll free (800) 461-4043