Safe, reliable water and wastewater services are a human right and the heart of healthy communities. But these rights are denied to many Indigenous communities in Canada. Water services and resources are also under growing pressure to privatize.

CUPE’s Water is life campaign raises awareness about the ongoing struggles of Indigenous peoples, and shows how CUPE members can listen, learn and act.

Colonization continues to have devastating effects on Indigenous communities. Access to water and sanitation are human rights according to international law, yet many Indigenous communities in Canada have water that’s unsafe to drink or wash with. Some communities have lived with unsafe water for decades. Other First Nations don’t have any functioning water system at all.

The current federal government has zeroed in on ending long-term boil water advisories in First Nation communities. But that’s just the start of what’s needed to end decades of water injustice and discrimination once and for all.

Indigenous peoples are defending and reclaiming their water and territories, protecting them from environmental racism. Many Indigenous communities rely on water sources that have been harmed by resource development projects or are being threatened by new development going through their territories. Corporate resource extraction, including the bottled water industry, is draining water sources, while Indigenous communities next door don’t have access to safe drinking water.

CUPE stands with Indigenous peoples in proclaiming “Water is life” and recognizing this basic human right for all people. Our union will work towards reconciliation by honoring Indigenous peoples’ role as the stewards and protectors of the waters of their treaty lands and traditional unceded territories.

CUPE also has a long history of defending public and community-controlled water and wastewater services. We will keep fighting new threats to our water systems, including from the Canada Infrastructure Bank. Stay alert for signs of privatization in your community and look for opportunities to bring water services back in house.

Learn, act and engage: