Vision Statement

NWAC’s vision is for all Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people to have access to clean water. NWAC also wants all water that currently contains toxins or pollutants to be purified. We recognize Indigenous women’s spiritual connection to the water and, thus, the necessity of including them at every decision making table in regards to it.

Wind Swept Pine Trees on Island

Summary

Water is foundational to Indigenous people’s health and well being, and is an important part of Indigenous women’s realities. Indigenous women are natural life carriers and protectors of water. They recognize that water has Spirit and all life on Mother Earth is connected to the water.

Indigenous women and girls are negatively affected by the mistreatment of water from pollution, toxic substances and waste. They believe that water should be treated like a living being; life itself cannot be sustained if the water is polluted. NWAC advocates that Indigenous people act as a voice for the water—to protect it and care for the environment for future generations.

As of July 2019, there are 57 1 long-term and 37 2 short-term drinking water advisories affecting Indigenous communities in Canada. The Government of Canada has said it will end all boil water advisories by 2021, but while it has made some progress, this promise is not on track.3

Grassy Narrows (Asubpeeschoseewagong) is a First Nations community in Ontario that is still dealing with the detrimental effects of mercury poisoning caused by a company dumping this metal into the English-Wabigoon River in the 1960s and 70s. Over 90% of Grassy Narrows residents have been negatively affected by the poisoning of their water. Both Indigenous men and women experience generational effects, with women passing the mercury poisoning on during pregnancy and breastfeeding.4

Today, climate change is only further exasperating the issues Indigenous peoples face surrounding water. The United Nations released a report in June 2019 addressing the particular impact climate change will have on those in poverty, and on human rights and democracy in general. Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people make up a grossly disproportionate number of impoverished people in Canada and are some of the most vulnerable to human rights violations.

NWAC believes that increasing existing infrastructure, water distribution and community water treatment facilities can alleviate water issues for Indigenous communities. We will continue to advocate for recognition, action and funding from the Government of Canada on issues of water for Indigenous peoples. We will also work to ensure Indigenous women are always consulted and involved when decisions regarding their water are made.

Nurturing water and protecting it for future generations is a part of Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people’s livelihoods. Clean water is essential to them.

Recommendations

Share three recommendations, gaps, problems, key messages or a past, present and future overlook and projection of the policy or file.

  1. Increase water infrastructure, water distribution and community water treatment facilities. 
  2. Prioritizing Indigenous People’s concerns of pollution and toxic substances in Canada that affect their communities. 
  3. Increase employment opportunities in water and waste management for Indigenous people. 
  4. Increase emergency management on water pollution and hazardous wastes in Canada. 
  1. The Government of Canada. (2019, July 10). Ending long-term drinking water advisories. https://www.sac-isc.gc.ca/eng/1506514143353/1533317130660
  2. The Government of Canada. (2019, July 15). Short-term drinking water advisories. https://www.sac-isc.gc.ca/eng/1562856509704/1562856530304
  3. McClearn, M. (2019, January 28). Liberals Cut Reserves’ Boil Advisories, But Water-Systems Problems Linger.
  4. Porter, J. (2018). Children of the Poisoned River.

What NWAC is Doing

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What Others are Doing

International Indigenous Policy Journal
Water the Sacred Relationship