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Access to clean, safe water is a basic human right and First Nations peoples must have a meaningful role in the decision-making process regarding one of our most important natural resources. Those were some of the key messages coming out of the Assembly of First Nations National Water Conference, currently underway in Edmonton.

The first day of the three-day conference focused specifically on the water rights of First Nations peoples and the threat of the increased commodification of water. CUPE was the sole sponsor for the first day, and sent a delegation of members and staff.

CUPE members Michelle Brown, Gloria Lepine, Dale White, NEB member Brian Barron, and CUPE staff members Audrey Barr, Don Moran, and Wes Payne are at the event representing the union.

In his opening remarks, AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo acknowledged CUPE’s support.

We’re thankful for the major sponsor of this event, the Canadian Union of Public Employees,” Atleo told conference delegates. “Your union advocates for safe drinking water and sewage treatment systems as human rights, and it’s important that we stand together because this is what the elder reminded us—that we have to work together. “

Atleo went on: “We can and we must and we will say to the world, that indigenous peoples of Canada and around the world have sacred responsibilities and duties to our Mother Earth and we will uphold them.”

Days two and three of the event will continue the discussion and feature a trade and technical show, where CUPE will promote our work to support clean safe water in all communities, as well as our work on community-based job skills training for Aboriginal workers.