For general facts, figures and maps about water in Canada such as distribution, water quality and climate change impacts, please consult a webpage dedicated to these topics by Natural Resources Canada.
Source Link: Natural Resources Canada - Water
In an article featured in Policy Horizons Canada, the issue of aboriginal rights with respect to water has been examined in light of emerging threats and increased demand for Canadian water resources for domestic and international consumption.
Policy Horizons Canada is a foresight and knowledge organization within the federal public service. It seeks to anticipate emerging policy challenges and opportunities through scanning and foresight and supports medium-term policy development by the Government of Canada.
Entitled “Whose Water is it? Aboriginal Water Rights and International Trade Agreements”, this article investigates the concept and history of aboriginal water rights as well as the implications of NAFTA on aboriginal water rights and provides recommendations in response to the situation.
This article concludes by recognizing that
“there is a challenge associated with protecting Aboriginal water rights in the context of international trade. The converse of this perspective, however, is that long-term protection of Canada’s freshwater resources may depend on the thorough, consistent, documented, and transparent discharge of governmental fiduciary obligations to Aboriginal peoples regarding their water rights. Although still uncertain, this may be one of the few actions governments in Canada can assert to prevent further water commodification and export. This may be the only legally justifiable way to restrict the trade in, and export of, Canadian water, without violating numerous NAFTA protections. By respecting their relationship with Aboriginal peoples, while seeking to protect water resources in Canada, governments could control further commodification of freshwater while upholding the honour of the Crown.”
Source Link: Policy Horizons Canada – Whose Water Is It? Aboriginal Water Rights and International Trade Agreements.
A recent report by the Human Rights Watch published in 2016 emphasizes “Canada’s Obligation to End First Nations Water Crisis” while recognizing that despite Canada’s richness in water resources and access of most Canadians to safe and affordable drinking water, due to lack of binding regulation for water on First Nation reserves, their water supplies are “contaminated, hard to access, or at risk due to faulty treatment systems”
Source Link: Human Rights Watch – Make it Safe: Canada’s Obligation to End First Nations Water Crisis
Amanda Klasing, a senior researcher of rights to clean water at Human Rights Watch in a special opinion piece in The Globe and Mail has also brought this issue to popular attention, urging Canada to “fulfill everyone’s right to clean, healthy water”.
Source Link: The Globe and Mail - Why is Canada denying its indigenous peoples clean water?
Previously, CBC News had aired a section to this issue entitled “Bad Water: ‘Third World’ conditions on First Nations in Canada”.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
The TRC is a component of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.
Its mandate is to inform all Canadians about what happened in Indian Residential Schools (IRS). The Commission will document the truth of survivors, families, communities and anyone personally affected by the IRS experience.
This includes First Nations, Inuit and Métis former Indian Residential School students, their families, communities, the Churches, former school employees, Government and other Canadians.
The Commission has a five-year mandate and is supported by a TRC Secretariat, which is a federal government department.
The TRC will prepare a comprehensive historical record on the policies and operations of the schools and produce a report that will include recommendations to the Government of Canada concerning the IRS system and its legacy.
The TRC hopes to guide and inspire Aboriginal peoples and Canadians in a process of reconciliation and renewed relationships that are based on mutual understanding and respect.
Source Link: About the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
The TRC has published the final report of its findings in 2015. Below, the relevant section that highlight the problem of water and its relevance for the broader problems identified in the report are selectively presented.
1. The problem of water in the historic context of health situations in residential schools:
“For Sickness, conditions at this school are nothing less than criminal.”
“Reserve land was often agriculturally unproductive. Reserve housing was poor and crowded, sanitation was inadequate, and access to clean water was limited. Under these conditions, tuberculosis flourished. Those people it did not kill were often severely weakened and likely to succumb to measles, smallpox, and other infectious diseases” (p. 95).
2. The persistence of problems as a result of legacy:
“Current conditions such as the disproportionate apprehension of Aboriginal children by child-welfare agencies and the disproportionate imprisonment and victimization of Aboriginal people can be explained in part as a result or legacy of the way that Aboriginal children were treated in residential schools and were denied an environment of positive parenting, worthy community leaders, and a positive sense of identity and self-worth.” (p.182)
3. Addressing water issues to improve outcomes for the welfare of children:
“We believe that in order to redress the legacy of residential schools and to move towards more respectful and healthy relationships, the Government of Canada, in meaningful consultation with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities, must recognize and address the broader context of the child-welfare crisis. This includes matters of child poverty, housing, water, sanitation, food security, family violence, addictions, and educational inequities” (p.191)
4. Addressing the challenge of reconciliation through the power of (water) ceremonies; attendee’s at TRC events learned to acknowledge and respect Indigenous ceremonies and protocols by participating in them:
“Water ceremonies were performed by the women who were recognized as the Protectors of the Waters. The sacred fire was also used for ongoing prayers and tobacco offerings, as well as to receive the tissues from the many tears shed during each event. The ashes from each of the sacred fires were then carried forward to the next National Event, to be added in turn to its sacred fire, thus gathering in sacred ceremony the tears of an entire country (p.320).
Source Link: Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada - Final Report
Treaty 7 is one of a family of numbered treaties signed between Canada’s First Nations and Queen Victoria between 1871 and 1921. Treaty 7 paved the way for the peaceful settlement of the Province of Alberta. The following maps are provided by Making Treaty 7. The first map demonstrates territories covered by all the Treaties in Canada.
Source Link: Making Treaty 7 – Treaty Map of Canada
The second map demonstrates First Nations and their territories covered by Treaties 6, 7 and 8 in Alberta.
Source Link: Making Treaty 7 - First Nations and Treaty 6, 7 and 8 in Alberta.
Making Treaty 7 tells the story of that historic agreement, and investigates the results and implications 137 years later. Making Treaty 7 has also produced a theatrical production which offers through art, a moving and engaging means to meet the recommendation of the TRC for all Canadians be familiar with the treaties. This vision is a cocreation of First Nation and non-First Nation artists informed by the stories of the respected Elders of the Treaty 7 nations.
Source Link: Discussing Treaty 7 and Human Rights – Scenes and Material from the Performance
Making Treaty 7 through a special message has been recognized for its “powerful contribution to the ongoing work of truth and reconciliation” (Source Link: Special Message from TRC).
For more information on the performance and the Making Treaty 7 Cultural Society please visit our website at www.makingtreaty7.com.
The Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs of the Government of Canada offers a Treaty Guide to Treaty No. 7. This guide includes:
- a historical interpretation of the treaty in a Treaty Research Report: Treaty 7 (Direct Link).
- a typed transcript of Treaty 7 (Direct Link),
- a map of Canada in 1877 (Direct Link)
- and additional resources in a Bibliography by Treaty: Treaty 7 (Direct Link)
Source Link: Indigenous and Northern Affairs of Canada - Treaty Guide to Treaty No. 7 (1877)