World Water Day is hosted each year on March 22nd  to raise awareness about, and galvanize action towards, providing safe water access for everyone around the world. Safe water access might seem like a far away problem that doesn’t impact water-rich Canada, but this is a huge problem right here at home.

The crisis

There are currently 109 First Nations communities across Canada suffering under a drinking water advisory.[1] That means that right now, thousands of First Nations people from BC to Newfoundland and Labrador are living in appalling conditions because they’re unable to drink, bathe, or use their water.[2] What’s even more troubling is the fact that for many First Nations communities this isn’t a new problem. A large proportion of these advisories are long-term, meaning they have been in place for more than a year.[3] One of the most shocking examples is of the Tŝideldel (Alexis Creek) First Nation, in the Interior of BC, who have had a “Boil-Water Advisory” for over 18 years![4]

Check out the map below to see all of the First Nations communities affected by drinking water advisories across the country.

How is this crisis happening?

First Nations communities and their water infrastructure is the responsibility of the Federal Government and the Ministry of Indigenous and Northern Affairs. Unfortunately, over many years the Federal Government has underfunded the development, maintenance, and repair of First Nations water systems which has resulted in many of these systems breaking down or becoming unsafe to use. In fact, many non-governmental and human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch and the Council of Canadians have described this continued underfunding as government sanctioned discrimination against First Nations people.[5] 

Taking action

The best way to resolve this water crisis is for the Federal Government to work with First Nations communities to fix the systems that are currently broken and adequately fund the repair and maintenance of First Nations’ water systems going forward. The Assembly of First Nations is currently working towards this goal and is leading a campaign of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to ask the Federal Government to fulfill its obligations to First Nations by providing this funding. Visit to see how you can lend your support.

Human Rights Watch has also been researching the water crisis and has put together an excellent resource with more information and recommendations for the Federal Government, Federal Parliament, Ministry of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Health Canada, First Nations Councils, and Provincial Governments to help solve these problems. Take a look at their report and its recommendations here.

For more information, contact:

James-Dean Aleck
Aboriginal Representative
Dylan Robinson
Equity Coordinator


[1] Health Canada. “Drinking Water and Wastewater.” First Nations and Inuit Health. November 22, 2016.

[2] Levasseur, Joanne. “Bad water: ‘Third World’ conditions on First Nations in Canada.” October 14, 2015.

[3] Health Canada. “Drinking water advisories: First Nations South of 60.” Drinking Water. November 22, 2016.

[4] First Nations Health Authority. “Drinking Water Advisories.” Environmental Health. February 17, 2017.

[5] CBC News. “Canada violates human right to safe water, says report by international watchdog.” June 7, 2016.