March 15, 2017

Protect Our Right To Water

WATER

From pipelines and lead poisoning to drinking water advisories, our right to water continues to be threatened in 2017. Access to water and sanitation is a human right, recognized by the United Nations in 2010 and the Canadian government in 2012. Yet thousands of Canadians continue to be unable to access safe drinking water.

In the fall of 2016, there were 158 drinking water advisories on 111 First Nations, and there are routinely over 100 water advisories in effect in Canada – some which have been in effect for nearly 20 years. The fight for access to safe drinking water transcends borders. Water Protectors in Standing Rock have been putting their lives on the line for close to a year by protesting the Dakota Access pipeline. Their fight reminds us that running the risk of poisoning life-giving water sources for Indigenous communities is too high a price to pay for any kind of industrial project, including pipelines.

In other communities, water sources are being threatened by corporate greed. For example, in Hope, B.C., located in Sto:lo Territory, Nestlé continues to extract 265 million litres from a well connected to an aquifer that provides water for 6,000 nearby residents. Nestlé is also outbidding communities for their water source, such as in the Township of Centre Wellington, Ontario, where Nestlé bought a well the town needed to purchase in order to keep its water supply safe from commercial water taking.

Take the pledge to boycott Nestlé and send a strong message that we need to protect our groundwater resources and make sure everyone in Canada has access to safe drinking water.

For years, the Canadian Federation of Students and our coalition partners have been fighting the privatization of water by calling for an end to the sale of bottled water in public buildings and facilities while concurrently promoting access to public tap water. Close to 30 colleges and universities, in addition to dozens municipalities and school boards, have gone bottled water free to date. Our premise has been this: Water is not a commodity to be profited off of, but a basic human right of everyone.

However…

We are reminded that living water bottled free requires sustainable, safe and adequate drinking water infrastructure, which has unjustly come to be a privilege for some of us – not a right guaranteed to all of us. In the 2015 federal election, Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party were elected on a promise to eliminate all boil water advisories for First Nations communities within five years. In February 2017, figures from the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs indicated that while 18 long-term drinking advisories had been lifted since November 2015, 12 had been added.

It is the Government of Canada’s responsibility to provide clean water to all First Nations communities. With the 2017 Federal Budget around the corner, the Canadian Federation of Students echoes the call of the Alternative Federal Budget to invest $1.9 billion for housing, water and other infrastructure for First Nations Communities. The federal government must uphold its promise to eliminate all water advisories for First Nations communities, and the only way to do so is to make clean drinking water a priority by making significant investments – immediately.