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 drinking water advisories in dozens of First Nations communities 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. 

In 2015, there were drinking water advisories in 126 First Nations. The Trudeau government committed to resolving them by March 2021, but they failed to provide all the funding required to meet that deadline. There are still advisories in 33 First Nation communities.  

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. 

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.
July 2010
In 2010, the United Nations declared water and sanitation human rights, acknowledging they are essential to the realization of all other rights.

Lack of access to clean, safe drinking water in First Nations must be fixed for good. While the Federal government pats itself on the back for making progress, dozens of First Nations communities are still waiting. We must keep up the pressure.

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

Take action



Tips: How students and teachers can take action for clean water in First Nations

School version: Water drop - It’s time to end drinking water advisories in First Nations! Write or design a message to send to the Prime Minister.

Water Drops designed by school students:
Water Drops