Understanding Why Thousands of Canadians Are Without Access to Clean Water

Green City Living Co. environment

A few years ago, I learned that there are thousands of Canadians without access to clean water. Instead, they live with boil water advisories which means they have to boil their water before they can drink it or use it to shower, brush their teeth and wash their dishes. This shocked me but I can't say it's unexpected. Canada loves to paint itself as an inclusive, equitable, safe country but over the years, I've learned that it has many flaws just like many other countries.

The goal of this blog post is to spread awareness about those who live without access to clean water in Canada and how you can help. 


"Officially, the Canadian government estimates that 82,400 people are without regular access to clean, and safe drinking water. As bad as that is, this number only includes 108 of the 1,001 active advisories we could find." - Better Dwelling

Baskut Tuncak, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and dangerous chemicals, reported in 2019 that radioactive pollution adversely affects Canada's Indigenous communities. Indigenous peoples believe the Canadian government has betrayed them and that they are being subjected to ethnic genocide.

The Neskantaga First Nations, for example, were evacuated to Thunder Bay a couple years ago after an oily sheen was discovered on their reservoir. Over the last 26 years, the city has been under a boil-water warning.

Chemical Valley, a 15-mile strip of manufacturing in Sarnia, Ontario, produces 40% of Canada's petrochemicals. Chemical Valley's particulates and hazardous substances end up in the St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair, causing water supply shut downs due to chemical pollution. Aamjiwnaang, a 300-year-old Chippewa First Nations reservation, sits in the middle of it all.

Source: Clean Water Wave

What You Need to Know

  • Access to safe drinking water is a basic human necessity

  • A review of the First Nations drinking water crisis found that Indigenous Services Canada's efforts to lift boil water advisories have been constrained by a funding policy that hasn't been updated in 30 years, and by the lack of a regulatory regime that includes legal protections comparable with other communities in Canada.

  • In 2017, the Government of Canada announced that $1.5 billion will be put towards providing clean drinking water in First Nations communities

Source: CBC & Government of Canada

What is the Canadian Government Doing? 

As of July 30, 2021, First Nations and the Canadian government agreed on an $8-billion settlement on drinking water advisories

"The settlement, which is awaiting court approval, would offer $1.5 billion in compensation to individuals deprived of clean drinking water and modernize Canada's First Nations drinking water legislation." -CBC


Read More: Ending long-term drinking water advisories

Read: The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Environmental Racism

How to Help

  • Contact your local elected officials to encourage change

  • Share your knowledge with others to spread awareness 

  • Donate to Water First which is Canada's leading NGO dedicated to helping First Nations communities solve local water challenges through education, training & collaboration

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