Lack of Clean Drinking Water for Indigenous People in Canada

Apart from being among the wealthiest nation in the world to afford most commodities, Canada also has a favorable climate that foster rain and large lakes such as Great lakes in Ontario. Therefore, lacking sufficient water to satisfy the needs of its citizens tend to be an act of ignorance from the government rather than inadequacy. Indigenous people living in First Nation communities lack clean drinking water despite the construction of water reserve (Thompson 2016). The government has spent a lot of money to regulate the quality of water in off-reserve areas, but it has failed due lack of binding rules for water on First Nation reserves. This paper discusses how ignorance of the government is not providing safe water for drinking leads to physical and mental health issues and depriving of human rights.

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Based on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom as well as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, terms the need for clean drinking water as fundamental human right. India Act states that the federal government secures indigenous lands in trust as well as owes a fiduciary responsibility to indigenous people about their health as well as the health of their land they live. However, the Canadian federal continues to violate the rights of indigenous people as they are unable to provide clean drinking water to 97 First Nation communities which are under advisory either as a result of bureaucratic incompetence or political malfeasance (Flegg 2017). Indigenous people have equal right as the rest of the country because they are human with the ability to perform similar tasks despite historical ties, and cultural practices from their regions. Therefore, indigenous people have the right to practice their customs and are free from discrimination by providing safe drinking water. By restricting indigenous people to access safe drinking water violates their rights to life because individuals cannot survive without water and the right to practice cultural activities like fishing since the water is contaminated.

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In comparison to the rest of Canada’s cities the First Nation’s access to clean water is extensively lower, which endangers the lives of individuals living in Indigenous communities. According to Levasseur and Marcoux (2015), two-thirds of people living in the First Nations have been using one water advisory from 2004, and 2014. 400 out of 618 First Nations had to share one water advisory because the state experienced water problems; hence, making it difficult to offer safe water for drinking. For instance, one water advisory in Ontario’s Neskantage First Nation, residents had to boil water for20 years to ensure its clean for drinking. Another Indigenous communities where water crisis revolved in Canada was Saskatchewan as well as New Brunswick with 93% reporting to have at least one water advisory while Alberta 87% of individual used one water advisory and Manitoba has 51% people also using one water advisory (Levasseur " Marcoux 2015).The significant gaps that had led to having one water advisory serving numerous people in the Indigenous community include; bad pipe connection, improper filtration, lack of disinfection leading to bacterial contamination and low pressure. Although the government had provided the money needed to support water systems, the government needs to ensure there is constant progress based on the filtration of water and development of water pipes monitoring steps of constructing water reserves.

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Lack of clean drinking water leads to varies physical health issues such as discolored teeth due to water containing too much chlorine. Canadians from First Nation communities are denied right to safe drinking water because reserves operators inform of the contaminated of drinking waters contained in reserve. Poor maintenance of water reserves leads to numerous physical health issues such as waterborne illnesses from contaminated water. Organic materials found in dirty water sources tend to react with disinfectant chemicals such as chlorine, results in gastrointestinal disorders and cancer due to Trihalomethanes. Since most people from indigenous communities avoid drinking contaminated water from the advisories; they use the same water for house chores since they are unable to afford water for washing clothes and dishes as well as drinking. Individuals using water from advisory for bathing have suffered from skin infections and psoriasis among other skin problems. Hence, forcing indigenous people to change their hygiene habit by reducing the number of times children birth, helps in protection their skin from infection. For example, Debora ’s, nine-year-old son developed rashes on his belly and buttocks, which became red and oozy leading of skin infection known as eczema in the entire body. Therefore, Doha purchase bottled water to wash his son because tap water is contained (Klasing 2016).Most indigenous communities experience water crisis due to overcrowding and housing shortage.

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Lacking clean water for consumption leads to mental health issues such as depression as most parents watch their children suffer from skin infections among other illness. People from indigenous communities have developed a mental illness due to financial constraints as they are forced to buy bottled water for bathing for those with children, elderly or disabled people as they are vulnerable skin infections. Households that are not served with community water systems highly develop mental illness as they are forced to rely on a private well for drinking water, which costs them a lot of money. The water crisis has also influenced cultural activities such as fishing as well as hunting since animals are unable to survive by drinking contained water. Thus, reducing the forms of teaching children as well as sharing cultural activities such as fishing among other traditional ceremonies held along lakes.

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A living off-reserves location such as that of First Nation tends to be cheaper due to cheap foodstuff than living on-reserves areas. However, off-reserves lack clean drinking water, which forces people to spend most of their income on expensive foodstuffs on-reserves areas rather than using their income to treating skin infection among other health issues from drinking contained water. On the contrarily, individuals living on-reserves areas, are likely to suffer from malnutrition as they spend much of their earning on fixed expenses including expensive house, which makes it difficult to afford balanced diet meals. According to Canada Press(2016), food basket for a family with four people in First Nation such as Attawapiskat was $1,909 while Toronto was $847 in June 2015.

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Indigenous communities comprise of low and middle-income earner that have large families and are crowded in areas where housing is cheaper compared to developed cities the work. Therefore, to improve 20% of India Act rules for ensuring the provision of clean drinking water, the government ought to help in upgrading their housing systems to create space for water pipes to be fixed(Matthews 2017).Lacking insufficient funds to support maintenance of water reserves due to illness after  drinking contaminated water, act as setbacks after the government has constructed water reserves. Consequently, not being able to drink water from their community affects people in First Nation communities as they have to search for clean water from other communities, which consumes a lot of time that they would use to develop other social amenities in their communities. Thus, lacking enough revenue to support water reserves leads to the continuous water crisis in the indigenous community. Water crisis does affect not only the physical health of the indigenous community but also the social and cultural practices within the First Nations.

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            The only amicable solution to the water crisis in indigenous communities is for the government to form binging regulations on water quality and proper funding for water system costs. The government needs to form rules that aim at providing safe drinking water and take legal action against individuals that breaches the rules of water and wastewater system. By doing so, workers underwater department will ensure money accounted for reserves development is properly utilized. Additionally, the government ought to set aside funds for operations and maintenance costs. Having such funds will enable water operators to ensure broken pipes are fixed to avoid contamination of waste and chemicals for treating water such as chlorine is purchase to make water safe for drinking.

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 Although the government had provided the money needed to support water systems, the government needs to ensure there is constant progress based on the filtration of water and development of water pipes. According to Fleeg (2017), Canadian government needs individuals that are conversant with the restoration of water and treatment, to ensure that First Nations access water which is free of bacteria affecting their lives as they increase chances of getting infected. The government also needs to employ a ground manager to monitor operations at different water plans; for instance, in Manitoba, Pinanymootang residents do not consume water from the tap which comes from the treated water plant, because it contains too much chlorine that ruined their laundry.


Flegg, E. (2017). Counterpoint: The government has provided adequate monetary investment,

Flegg, E. (2017). Point: The Government Is Violating the Constitutional Rights of First Nations Communities by Not More Aggressively Ensuring Their Water Is Clean and Safe to Drink. Canadian Points of View: Clean Drinking Water for First Nations Human Rights Watch. p40-52.

Klasing, A. (2016. June). Make it safe: Canada’s obligation to end the first nation water crisis.

Levasseur, J., Marcoux, J. (2015, Oct 15). Bad water: ‘Third world’ conditions on first nations in

Matthews, R. (2017). The cultural erosion of Indigenous people in health care. CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal, 189(2), E78.

Ornelas, R. T. (2014). Implementing the Policy of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The International Indigenous Policy Journal, 5(1), 4.

public health initiatives, and training to assist first nations in managing and monitoring

systems to maintain clean and safe drinking water.

The Canadian Press. (2016, Sept 12). The high cost of meeting basic needs in northern Ontario. Maclean’s.

Thompson, E. (2016). Investigating drinking water advisories in First Nations communities through data mining (Doctoral dissertation).

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