Holding 20% of the world’s fresh drinking water, one would not think that pollution, lack of access, and the commoditization of water has plagued Canada’s Indigenous people for more than 5 years. Without clean and easily accessible water, the people of Canada’s “First Nations” have to endure hardships every day to take advantage of such a necessary resource as water. For example, in Ontario’s Indigenous Reserves, people have to pay to have water delivered to them, boil their water every day, or travel to only two fill up sites with clean water. The conditions these people are living in are being described as “third world”, vs. first world.
Blue algae, E. Coli, and other bacterial coliforms are the primary contaminants of pollution in Canada’s water. Drinking, bathing, and cooking with this water is very dangerous. A single mother in Ontario used a reverse osmosis dispenser to bathe her son. When it became a hassle to take him to the dispenser every day, she thought it would be safe to bathe her 4 month old son using the tap water. The mother claimed “his face got swollen. I was told he has eczema. I want to bathe him every day, but it has to be every two to three days. When we travel to Thunder Bay, his skin isn‘t like this when I bathe him in the water there.” These are just some of the struggles that Canadians go through every day when trying to access water.
The people of Canada have taken notice and are banding together to put a stop to the water problem that indigenous Canadians face every day. Warren Brown, a paramedic turned water treater who spends his days travelling across the Ontarian reserve lands, inspecting and maintaining water treatment facilities has been a game changer for the crisis. If an advisory needs to be issued, Brown is the one who makes the call. Brown was one of the leaders behind a group who connected with RES’EAU-WaterNet, a research network at the University of British Columbia which specialises in small, affordable water systems. Without the help of the government, they have single handedly set up a small water treatment plant for themselves.
The commoditization of water by the government has shown the government’s failure in protecting these people as they continue to sell water treatment plants to companies, instead of townships at need. Recently, in a small town called Elora, Nestle outbid the town commerce system to purchase a well on the town line. The other two wells in Elora are so unstable that they both can’t be pumped at the same time. Seeing that the government prioritized wealth and commerce over the basic needs of its people, local Canadians realized they had to make a stand. This led to the start of different campaigns and boycotts towards Nestle in Elora, “Save our Water” is a group that allows people to express how they feel peacefully through a means that supports others in need.Many upcoming events are schedules against Nestle, including a march organized by an indigenous student, and a “Putting a Stop to Nestle” event on November 24, 2018.
To solve their water problem, the Canadian government is working alongside indigenous government and organizations to push new bills that repeal the provisions of the Northwest Territories Devolution Act that would restructured the four land and water boards in Ontario’s provinces. These are just small steps in the Canadian government’s actions towards remedying the crisis. If Canada truly wants to solve its water problem for indigenous people, it needs to stop commoditizing water and turning basic needs into business, and focus on the needs and safety of all its people.