Archive for July, 2010

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

Council of Canadians celebrates UN General Assembly recognition of human right to water

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

July 28, 2010

After over a decade of hard work, the global water justice movement achieved a major victory today as the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favour of recognizing water and sanitation as human rights. The resolution – put forward by Bolivia and co-sponsored by 35 states – passed overwhelmingly with 124 states voting in favour and 42 abstaining.

“It was a great honour to be present as the UN General Assembly took this historic step forward in the struggle for a just world,” says Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “It is sad however, that Canada chose not to participate in this important moment in history.”

The organization is calling on states to build on this victory.

“This resolution has the overwhelming support of a strong majority of countries, despite a handful of  powerful opponents. It must now be followed-up with a renewed push for water justice,” says Anil Naidoo, Blue Planet Project organizer. “We are calling for actions on the ground in communities around the world to ensure that the rights to water and sanitation are implemented.

Governments, aid agencies and the UN must take their responsibilities seriously.”

As a result of this vote, the human right to water and sanitation is now explicitly and formally recognized at the UN.

“Canada’s abstention from the vote will not excuse it from the work that needs to be done to maintain and improve its public water and sanitation systems for all peoples living in Canada, including Indigenous communities who have lived for generations without adequate infrastructure,” says Meera Karunananthan, national water campaigner at the Council of Canadians.

UN declares clean water and sanitation is a human right!

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

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.

The 192-member Assembly also called on United Nations Member States and international organizations to offer funding, technology and other resources to help poorer countries scale up their efforts to provide clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for everyone.

The Assembly resolution received 122 votes in favour and zero votes against, while 41 countries abstained from voting. (NOTE: CANADA ABSTAINED)

The text of the resolution expresses deep concern that an estimated 884 million people lack access to safe drinking water and a total of 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.

Today’s resolution also welcomes the UN Human Rights Council’s request that Catarina de Albuquerque, the UN Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation, report annually to the General Assembly as well.

Ms. de Albuquerque’s report will focus on the principal challenges to achieving the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation, as well as on progress towards the relevant Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The MDGs, a series of targets for reducing social and economic ills, all by 2015, includes the goals of halving the proportion of people who cannot reach or afford safe drinking water and halving the number who do not have basic sanitation.

In a related development, Ms. de Albuquerque issued a statement today after wrapping up a nine-day official visit to Japan in which she praised the country for its nearly universal access to water and sanitation and for its use of innovative technologies to promote hygiene and treat wastewater.

But the Independent Expert said she was shocked that some members of the Utoro community near Kyoto, where Koreans have been living for several generations, still do not have access to water from the public network.

“People are also not connected to the sewage network, despite the fact that the surrounding area is largely covered by sewage service,” she said. “When floods occur, as happened one year ago, the lack of sewage and proper evacuation of grey water result in contamination of the environment, including with human faeces, posing serious health concerns.

“I am also worried that water and sanitation are extremely expensive for some people living in Utoro, who reportedly do not have a right to receive a pension.”

LINK to UN story

UN to decide on urgent need to declare water a human right, Canada continues to block efforts

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Council of Canadians, E-Newsletter, July 16, 2010

Before the end of July, the UN General Assembly is expected to decide on a draft resolution declaring the human right to “safe and clean drinking water and sanitation.” The resolution is being presented by the Bolivian government and has been endorsed by several other countries.

The Canadian government, however, has not supported the resolution and may even be lobbying other countries to weaken it. The Canadian government has a long history of blocking a UN resolution on the right to water, even though it is urgently needed to stop water privatization and to ensure governments provide access to clean drinking water for people within their borders.

For many years, the water justice movement, including the Council of Canadians’ Blue Planet Project, has been calling for UN leadership on this critical issue. “When the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights was written, no one could foresee a day when water would be a contested area,” said Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians in a recent media release. “But in 2010, it is not an exaggeration to say that the lack of access to clean water is the greatest human rights violation in the world. Canadians need to be aware that the Harper government is one of the primary obstacles to the international recognition of the right to water.”

This resolution would recognize the right to water and sanitation for the 1.2 billion people without access to clean water and the 2.6 billion people without access to basic sanitation. Every eight seconds a child dies from preventable disease caused by drinking dirty water.

The Council of Canadians is calling on the Canadian government to support the resolution for the human right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation and to stop all efforts to modify or weaken it.

To read our recent media release on this issue go here.

To read a recent opinion editorial printed in The Toronto Star “A human right Canada rejects: Access to clean water” go here.

To read more about Canada’s shameful position on the right to water at the UN and how to take action, go here.

LINK to this e-newsletter :

One Person Can Make A Difference

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

This story was written by the Communications Dept. at Algoma University, and was published in the June 2010 issue of the Anishinabek News (page 22). “Each month the Anishinabek News is distributed compliments of the Union of Ontario Indians to citizens of the Anishinabek Nation.  It is also circulated to universities, colleges, friendship and health centres, First Nations across Canada, and by individual subscriptions both nationally and internationally.” You might see your name or group in the article. I wanted to mention you all by name, but we would have needed a bigger paper to fit you all in; cause there are a pile of you doing water work! Miigwech. Check it out!

One Person Can Make A Difference 1-pg PDFAnishinabek News June 2010

Anishinabek News, June 2010 24-pg PDF

Link to Anishinabek News:

Senate Debate on Bill S-11, The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Bill

Sunday, July 18th, 2010


This is a must read; from front to back. It’s frightening. It throws open the doors to loss of rights, punishment and water privatization. First Nations are going to have a heck of a time meeting the standards in this bill, and if they don’t “any person” can come in and “seize and detain things, and apply for a search warrant” and/or “require a first nation to enter into an agreement for the management of its drinking water or waste water system in cooperation with a third party.” Just like that, the Crown can send whoever they darn well please, to come in and seize, detain and/or privatize.

This bill also says in paragraph 4 (1)(r) that the Crown can: “provide for the relationship between the regulations and aboriginal and treaty rights referred to in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, including the extent to which the regulations may abrogate or derogate from those aboriginal and treaty rights.”

Abrogate and derogate are pretty scary words. Abrogate means to do away with. Derogate means to deviate or detract from. Can they abrogate and derogate treaty rights? I think that’s what this bill is saying they can do. I need some clarification on this point.

The Hon. Patrick Brazeau talks about” targeted” and “informed investments” and “protecting investments” and wants to” expedite this legislation.” This bill is setting First Nations up to fail, and when they do, there will be punishment and significant penalties and strangers on their land selling them back their water. We all want clean safe drinking water for our communities, but at what price? We can not “expedite this legislation” until we understand the ramifications to such an action, and so far it’s not looking good.

Please take the time to read the whole thing. It’s enlightening and scary. We need to understand Bill S-11, and we need to start referring to it when we mail in our Empty Glasses for Water to the PM. As I learn and understand more I will share.

Miigwech, joanne

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

The Capacity Gap

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

Posted @ Water Canada on 28 May 2010 · Written by Kerry Freek, Editor, Water Canada

Earlier this week, the federal government introduced Bill S-11, the proposed First Nations Safe Drinking Water Act. The Act promises to bring First Nations water up to the same standards of other Canadian jurisdictions. To the uninitiated, this news reads like a sign of goodwill and cooperation. Below the surface, however, First Nations frustration is growing.

“Three-quarters of First Nations are adamantly opposed to this Bill,” said Merrell-Ann Phare of the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources at this week’s CFCAS Water Security Symposium in Ottawa. The two-day event covered water science, policy, and everything in between.

Phare didn’t tackle specifics, but she did state that while the promises of First Nations water legislation are in theory pretty good, it’s all about the follow-through. “The number one opposition to the Bill is the lack of capacity and resources,” she explained.

That’s exactly what the Assembly of First Nations is saying. Yesterday, National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo issued a press release claiming that the legislation will not in its current form meet the stated objective of ensuring First Nations have access to safe drinking water.

“This legislation will create new regulations for First Nations drinking water but does not specify how First Nations will be equipped with the facilities, skills and resources to meet those regulations,” said Atleo. “First Nations need infrastructure, training and support to meet the requirements of the new regulations. Regulations without the capacity and financial resources to support them will only set up First Nations to fail and to be punished for this. In my view, we must address the capacity gap as well as the regulatory gap. After all, the safety and health of First Nations people is the stated goal.”

Atleo’s concern is justified, but his argument isn’t new. Cash and resource-strapped communities all over Canada are struggling to implement standards that promote human and environmental health. “Just look at the financial impact on Ontario communities as they work their way through the implementation of the Safe Drinking Water Act regulations,” said one of my colleagues yesterday.

Our coverage of the Canada-wide Strategy for the Management of Municipal Wastewater feedback (“Download Debate“) provides another prime example. With no accompanying funding strategy, the new regs (to be implemented over 30 years) have municipalities in a tizzy—downloaded costs are just another reason to fret over shrinking budgets.

Are these situations indicative of what might be a combination of inadequate consultation and forced political agenda?

Let’s add another level to the First Nations case. It’s not just about capacity—it’s about timing. This afternoon I spoke with Irving Leblanc, AFN’s director of housing and infrastructure. He cited the national audit that is currently underway to assess the capacity and needs for clean drinking water in First Nations communities. The audit is expected to be complete in December, and, he told me, it will give the government a better indication of the funding and capacity requirements.

These results (what Leblanc called “Class D estimates”) could have provided more accurate information upon which to base the Act. So why has Bill S-11 appeared months before the end of the study?

The National Chief is advocating partnership and discussion with stakeholders: “We must build on these recommendations and move forward based on the rights of First Nations peoples and governments and design solutions in full collaboration,” Atleo said yesterday. “Our communities have a clear understanding of the real needs and challenges in delivering safe drinking water and our voices must be heard.”

Back to this week’s CFCAS event. This week in Ottawa, scientists and policy experts came together to listen to each other and gain a better understanding of the state of Canada’s water and its management. I can’t count the number of times people commented on breaking down silos and beginning integration. If I took away one lesson from the symposium, it’s that we’ve got to listen and hear before we act. If the federal government’s announcement is any indication of our nation’s progress, we may still have a long way to go.

Link to article:

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