Tap water

Safe Water for First Nations

There is nothing more important than clean water, especially now in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet at any given time there are more than 100 drinking water advisories in First Nations across Canada. The lack of clean, safe drinking water in First Nations is one of the greatest violations of the UN-recognized human rights to water and sanitation.

The Trudeau government committed to ending these water advisories by 2021, but very little progress has been made and the needed funding has not been committed to end this crisis.

Instead, the Liberal government has been promoting public-private partnerships (P3s) as a solution. History has shown that P3s cost more, they lead to the privatization of water, and a loss of community control and jobs. P3s are not the answer to the drinking water crisis in First Nations.

The Council of Canadians fights for safe, clean water for everyone. This is even more urgent as COVID-19 continues to spread globally. We support Indigenous peoples’ right to self-government and self-determination. Greater control by and for First Nations over water is a basic step toward reconciliation, a requirement of  the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and a necessary precondition to ending drinking water advisories in First Nations for good.

174 advisories
In May 2018, there were 174 drinking water advisories in over 100 First Nations.
20 years
Some of the advisories date as far back as 1995 – like Shoal Lake 40 First Nation.
A single drinking water advisory can mean as many at 5,000 people lack access to safe, clean drinking water.
73 per cent of First Nations’water systems are at high or medium risk of contamination.
If Canada raises corporate tax rates from 15 to 15.5 percent, all First Nations’ could have working water systems.
July 2010
In 2010, the United Nations declared water and sanitation human rights, acknowledging they are essential to the realization of all other rights.

The Trudeau government promised to end all long-term drinking water advisories in First Nations by 2021. But many are given band-aid solutions that result in new short-term advisories. Lack of access to clean, safe drinking water in First Nations must be fixed for good.

Take action! Send a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and tell him it’s time to end drinking water advisories in First Nations.


  • Alternative Federal Budget, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, February 2019, policyalternatives.ca
  • Glass half empty? David Suzuki Foundation and Council of Canadians, February 2017
  • Indigenous Services Canada, Government of Canada, canada.ca/en/indigenous-services-canada.html

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