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World Water Day 2013 – Where is the Cooperation?

(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, March 22, 2013) First Nations recognize, honour and respect water as sacred and acknowledge our inherent stewardship responsibility to take care of the waters in accordance with our laws. Every action involving water management and water use requires full cooperation between multiple groups, whether at the community, regional, provincial, national or the international levels. In recognition of this reality, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2013 to be the International Year of Water Cooperation. The UN has also declared March 22 as World Water Day dedicating this year’s Water Day to the same theme.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs stated “Yesterday, the Harper Government released their budget containing their re-announcement of their commitment of $700 million per year for the next decade to maintain and build on-reserve infrastructure of 617 First Nations. Some of which have endured days, weeks or months of ‘Do Not Consume’ order for drinking water. It is absolutely shameful that the Harper Government ignores its own reports which call for an immediate $1 billion to upgrade all on-reserve water and waste water systems to federal standards.”

Chief Bob Chamberlin, Vice-President of the UBCIC remarked “As Chief of Kwikwasutinuxw Haxwa’mis, it took eight years of negotiation to build our new $6.5 million water treatment plant. The Harper Government is currently fast-tracking Bill S-8, Safe Drinking Water for First Nations, where they will force First Nations to comply with federal standards and accept all liabilities without all of the necessary infrastructure in place. In the spirit and intent of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, there is no true and meaningful cooperation from the Harper Government on Bill S-8.”

“Water is sacred. Across British Columbia, Indigenous Peoples are acting on their stewardship responsibilities to water, defending their territory and the health of their communities. The Halalt First Nation is protecting groundwater and the Chemainus River and the Tsilhqot’in are fighting to stop the poisoning of Teztan Biny and destruction of fish habitat by Taseko Mines and Fort Nelson First Nation are calling for a moratorium on the practice of using huge volumes of water for the sole purpose of fracking” said Grand Chief Phillip. “The UBCIC fully supports all First Nations’ human right to clean drinking water and the everyday exercise of their Title, Rights and Treaty Rights.”

Media inquires:
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of BC Indian Chiefs
Phone: (604) 684-0231