A new approach and new investments are needed to ensure that First Nations families have safe drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, according to Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde. Chief Bellegarde issued the call-to-action during his opening remarks at the 2nd Annual Water Symposium and Tradeshow in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

“There is much work to be done to address the serious and urgent water and wastewater issues facing First Nations children and families,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “This is a priority. This is about the health and safety of our citizens who are being denied a basic human right.”

“We need significant investments in water and wastewater infrastructure, repeal and replacement of the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, and new legislation co-developed with First Nations that actually results in safe drinking water,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “The situations many First Nations are facing would not be tolerated anywhere else in this country. First Nations have the solutions and the work over the next three days will help guide the work that lies ahead”.

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Many First Nations in Canada are facing water and wastewater issues, boil water advisories and poor sanitation. A new approach supported by new investments is needed. The three-day focused on recent developments and approaches that impact First Nations and water and highlight innovative approaches driven by First Nations.

The event included plenary addresses from First Nations leaders and experts, government representatives. A keynote presentation was provided by Te Pou Tupua, the official voice of the Whanganui River located in Aotearoa/New Zealand, established under the Whanganui River Treaty settlement as the first river ever to possess formal legal personhood.

“This Symposium is an important opportunity for dialogue that will lead to action to ensure First Nations have equity in water, quality standards and equity in water access” said Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald and AFN Water Portfolio Holder.  “Many First Nations in Canada continue to deal with unsafe drinking water, boil water advisories and inadequate sanitation.  In a time of reconciliation, access to safe water is a human right and essential in order to build healthy communities”.

The AFN 2nd Annual National Water Symposium and Tradeshow was held in Niagara Falls, Ontario, from February 26 to 28, 2019.  The symposium was targeted to First Nations leaders or their representatives, community housing and infrastructure councillors, water operators, community water monitors, tribal councils, provincial/territorial organizations, and federal and provincial officials involved in water or wastewater infrastructure.

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