Ottawa must act to end First Nations water crisis identified in Human Rights Watch report: Editorial (Toronto Star – June 8, 2016)

A leading human rights group has released a report urging Ottawa to clean up water systems on 85 First Nations reserves. The Liberal government should heed the call immediately.

In a nation as rich as ours, one that contains 20 per cent of the world’s fresh water, no one should have to fear what flows through their tap. Yet a damning new report by a leading U.S.-based human rights group concludes that many First Nations communities across Ontario are being deprived of their right to clean water.

As of January 2016, drinking water advisories were in effect in 85 reserves across Canada, most of them in this province. More startling, roughly 36 per cent of those advisories had been in place for 10 years or more — some for more than 20.

That means in some communities a generation has grown up not knowing what it’s like to drink from a tap or even shower without worrying about E. coli or the various other poisons Human Rights Watch discovered in the reserves’ untreated water.

“[T]he Canadian government has violated a range of international human rights obligations toward First Nations persons and communities by failing to remedy the severe water crisis,” the report concludes. Ottawa should be ashamed.

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