February 11th, 2021
Letter to the UN Special Rapporteurs: Tataskweyak Cree Nation & all First Nations deserve clean drinking water
To the UN Special Rapporteurs,
I am writing to you today regarding a recent submission on behalf of Tataskewyak Cree Nation and their struggle for justice in the face of Canada’s gross human rights violations. I represent Tataskweyak Cree Nation, a First Nation with 2,300 members living on a reserve in northern Manitoba in Canada. Tataskweyak has been under a drinking water advisory for nearly four years, during which time its members have been unable to drink the water from their taps. Despite Tataskweyak leadership continually expressing their concerns about their drinking water, the Government of Canada has repeatedly failed to take meaningful action in response.
The sad reality is that Tataskewayk Cree Nation is not alone. In fact, there are at least 58 First Nation in communities in Canada that don’t have access to clean drinking water. While the government of Prime Minister Trudeau continues to pay lip service to real solutions, the reality is quite the opposite.
Tataskweyak, Neskantaga, and First Nations across the country have alerted Canada to their water crises for decades and Canada’s response has been to focus more on empty words than fulfilling promises. Even though Canada recognizes their responsibilities to First Nations, these communities have been left to wait – as their infrastructure further deteriorates, their residents contract illnesses, and their culture disappears. This is Canada’s legacy of racism and human rights abuses.
COVID-19 has made action more urgent now than ever. COVID-19 has compounded the impacts of the chronic infrastructure deficits which fuel the water crises in First Nations. Many First Nations across the country are unable to comply with public health directives, as clean water is not available from the tap. Again, First Nations have been forced to pay the price of Canada’s inaction, as the virus has disproportionately impacted First Nations.
Canada’s failure to fulfill its duties to First Nations contravenes countless international human rights standards. Canada must take meaningful action to uphold:
- First Nations’ right to clean drinking water and sanitation – which are essential to the realization of all human rights – pursuant to the UN General Assembly Resolution 64/292.
- First Nations’ right to public health and equal participation in cultural activities, pursuant to the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
- First Nations’ children’s rights to the highest standard of health and a standard of living that nourishes their physical, mental, spiritual, moral, and social development, pursuant to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- First Nations’ right to maintain their distinctive relationship with water, pursuant to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
- First Nations have been forced to wait for too long. Generations of children have grown without ever having access to clean and safe water from their taps.
Canada has failed to identify a clear path forward to address the continuation of long-term drinking water advisories on First Nations. International pressure is required to urge Canada to address these human rights violations. That is why I am supporting any and all efforts by Tataskweyak Cree Nation to get clean drinking water, including their class action lawsuit against Canada and their call through their lawyers at McCarthy Tétrault LLP for the UN to investigate Canada for gross human rights violations.
International pressure is key to forcing the Canadian government to do what they so far refused to do; respect the human rights and dignity of First Nations.
MP Niki Ashton (Churchill--Keewatinook Aski)