TORONTO – Today, March 22nd is the day where everyone across the globe recognizes World Water Day. Since 1993, the United Nations has made this a day of international observance and an opportunity to bring awareness to issues related to the future of water around the globe. This year’s theme – Nature for Water – explores how we can use nature to overcome the water challenges of the 21st century.
This year also marks the start of the International Decade For Action, “Water for Sustainable Development 2018-2028. The Chiefs of Ontario congratulate First Nation Water Ambassador, Autumn Peltier of Wikwemikong, who is speaking at the United Nations in New York today. Her message is part of a presentation entitled ‘Water’s Promise: Making Every Drop Count.’
“As First Nations peoples we need to continue to advocate for the Water Declaration in Ontario and its cultural significance, in order to ensure waters are respected and that future generations will continue to experience this gift,” said Regional Chief Day. “As the original stewards of the land, First Nations have vast repositories of ecological and traditional knowledge systems that can enhance decisions made around aquifers, water resource extraction, and the overall protection of water and aquatic species’ habitats.”
While most Canadians have access to sufficient and affordable clean water and adequate sanitation, First Nations experience a very different reality. Many First Nations communities do not benefit from access to clean drinking water in comparison with those living off reserve and rarely are there adequate levels of protection for these water resources. Clean drinking water is a basic human right, and every First Nation child living on reserve should be able to bathe in and drink from the water that comes out of the tap.
Currently, the Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation (OFNTSC) has engaged with federal and provincial ministries to create a trilateral working group to address long-term boil water advisories in Ontario First Nations. The goal of the group is to eliminate all boil water advisories in Ontario First Nations by 2021. In Ontario, there are currently 49 long-term boil water advisories. In the meantime, the OFNTSC and the Chiefs of Ontario will continue working together and in partnership with both Ontario and Canada towards long-term, sustainable water systems that are operated and maintained by our Peoples. OFNTSC and the Chiefs Of Ontario have a shared goal of ensuring every First Nation has access to clean drinking water now and for future generations.
“On World Water Day we also want to acknowledge what is taking place in the world around us. As First Nations peoples, we understand that we were given a responsibility from the Creator to take care of the lands and the waters for all people and the generations yet to come,” stated Regional Chief Day. “As such, we would like to take the opportunity on World Water Day to remind all people, Canadians and First Nations alike, that taking care of the water is not just a First Nation responsibility, but all of our responsibilities. We all need water to eat, drink, and cleanse ourselves and the water needs all of us to protect it in return.”