Long-term Drinking Water Advisories Across Indigenous Communities

Author: Christina Di Carlo
Editor: Rose Duncan

In 2015, the federal government had made a promise to lift all long-term water advisories in Indigneous communities by March 2021 (1). With no national water law, Indigenous communities under federal jurisdiction have no ‘legal protection’ of their drinking water (2). This creates a gap in holding the federal government accountable to promises, with a number of Indigenous communities presently living with no or minimal access to clean drinking water. The right to safe and clean drinking water for Indigenous communities is reflected in The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (Article 25), and Resolution 62/242 per The Human Right to Water and Sanitation (2-5). Despite this, 117 long-term drinking water advisories had been lifted since November 2015, while 45 remain across 32 communities, as of September 2021 (6). Based on documents from Indigenous Services Canada, there is a possibility that this deadline may be pushed back to 2026 (7).

  1. Justin Trudeau vows to end First Nations reserve boil-water advisories within 5 years [Internet]. CBC; 2015 [cited 2021 September 30]. Available from: https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canada-election-2015-justin-trudeau-first-nations-boil-water-advisories-1.3258058

  2. Boyd D. R. No Taps, No Toilets: First Nations and the Constitutional Right to Water in Canada. McGill Law Journal / Revue de droit de McGill. 2011;57(1), 81–134. Available from: https://doi.org/10.7202/1006419ar

  3. Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, s 7, Part 1 of the Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c 11.

  4. United Nations: Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Indigenous Peoples. United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [Internet]. United Nations; 2007. Available from:        https://www.un.org/development/desa/Indigenouspeoples/declaration-on-the-rights-of-Indigenous-peoples.html

  5. United Nations General Assembly. Resolution A/RES/64/292 (2010). Available from: http://daccess-ods.un.org/access.nsf/Get?Open&DS=A/RES/64/292&Lang=E

  6. Ending long-term drinking water advisories [Internet]. Government of Canada; 2021 [cited 2021 September 30]. Available from: https://www.sac-isc.gc.ca/eng/1506514143353/1533317130660

  7. Ottawa adds five years to end water advisories for First Nations [Internet]. The Globe and Mail; 2021 [cited September 30]. Available from: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-ottawa-adds-five-years-to-end-water-advisories-for-first-nations/

Additional Resource

  1. The Government of Canada's official webpage on lifting drinking water advisories which provides progress updates and remaining advisories: https://www.sac-isc.gc.ca/eng/1506514143353/1533317130660