EDMONTON - From time immemorial, First Nations have centered their existence on water. Unfortunately for all Canadians, care and protection of our water has been left in the hands of governments that value profits over people. We are currently at a crisis level with this resource, and the First Nations community is being hit the hardest by this crisis. In communities across Canada, safe potable water is something people have been unable to depend upon.
“It is deplorable,” said CUPE Aboriginal Committee Chair Gloria Lepine. “In the year 2008, there is no excuse for the fact that at least 85 First Nation water systems are in high risk, and that there are close to 100 boil water advisories in various communities.”
First Nations communities do not have the same level of protection as the rest of Canada regarding the safety of their water. Unlike most provinces that have regulations and legislation regarding drinking water, reserves do not. In Alberta, these effects are being felt deeply at the Fort Chipewyan reserve, which is 200 kilometres from Fort McMurray, downstream from the tar sands. Dr. John O’Connor, a local doctor, has gone on record as saying he is troubled by the unusually high instances of various cancers, auto-immune diseases, renal failure, and certain specific types of cancer that he sees in this community.
While the United Nations adopted the human right to water in 2002, Prime Minister Harper refused to sign this declaration. His government also refused to sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights on Indigenous Peoples.
“I don’t want to discount the sincerity of Stephen Harper’s recent apology to Canada’s Aboriginal peoples regarding centuries of injustices,” said CUPE Alberta Division President D’Arcy Lanovaz. “But one wonders if the government’s plan for dealing with the unsafe water on Canadian reserves is to apologize for it in another hundred years.”
The time for talk is over. The people of Alberta, and all of Canada, need to start to see a commitment from their governments that the health and safety of Canada’s First Nations people is a priority.
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Gloria Lepine (cell) 780. 886. 5660
D’Arcy Lanovaz (cell) 403. 861. 5235
Audra Williams (cell) 780. 504. 2837