Assembly of First Nations National Chief Marks World Water Day: “The Government Must Recognize the Right to Water as a Human Right”

March 20, 2009

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine commented today on World Water Day, which is celebrated on March 22, 2009.“Water is an important issue for Indigenous peoples around the world, and First Nations in Canada are no exception,” said National Chief Fontaine. “Most Canadians take clean drinking water for granted but First Nations cannot always trust the water that comes out of their taps. There are currently 109 First Nations communities under drinking water advisories, which is an increase since last July. This is unacceptable in a developed country like Canada. The government of Canada has to join other countries at the United Nations in recognizing the right to water as a basic human right.”

The National Chief noted that the theme of this year’s World Water Day is “Shared Water – Shared Opportunities”, with a special focus on transboundary waters.

The National Chief stated: “Water knows no boundaries and is the life blood of the planet. First Nations have always taken care of and used the waterways. The transboundary transfer of water for commodity purposes is a concern for us because it may affect our water rights and our access to and enjoyment of the water for harvesting, transportation and as a potable water supply.”

The National Chief noted that the recent federal budget bill, C-10, includes changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act that could threaten First Nations that rely on waterways. As well, the federal government’s proposal to develop new legislation on First Nations drinking water must not proceed without first ensuring that facilities meet the required standards. In both cases, First Nations must be consulted and accommodated.

“First Nations have a right to be consulted and heard on any changes that affect our lives, our rights and our rights to water,” National Chief Fontaine said. “This is consistent with Canadian law and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The AFN worked with the United Nations University to develop an Indigenous Water Declaration at the World Water Forum underway right now in Istanbul, Turkey. The AFN will be presenting the declaration at the Forum as we believe it will benefit First Nations in Canada, Indigenous peoples around the world and all peoples who believe in and value the right to water.”

World Water Day originated at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro.

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.

Contact information:

Don Kelly, A/Communications Director
Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext. 334 or cell: 613-292-2787 or e-mail

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