October 10, 2012
The Auditor General has noted that Canadas First Nations experience deplorable drinking water quality. Drinking water quality is inferior to non-reserve systems, and Boil Water Advisories have become routine. Water systems at 314 Canadian reserves were recently found to be “high risk.” Working for an affected BC First Nation, ELC student Craig Crooks recently completed a draft submission to the Federal Government, arguing that Ottawa is legally obliged to do more to upgrade First Nations drinking water systems. Ottawas failure to ensure healthy drinking water contravenes its fiduciary duty to First Nations, is inconsistent with its commitments under international agreements, and is contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Ottawa must provide significant new funding and programs to ensure First Nation communities have access to safe, clean and reliable drinking water, now and for years to come. As concerns around drinking water quality apply to many aboriginal communities, we have chosen to make Craigs draft submission publicly available with the hopes that it can be a resource to other First Nations who want to advocate for improved drinking water quality within the Canadian legal framework. ELC students Mary McNeil, Ben Arsenault and former ELC articled student Emma Hume also contributed to this project.