WTer InSTICe – CnDInSve neqL CCeSS T SFeDrInInG WTer
Canadians do not have equal access to saedrinking water – a basic source o survival.2010 marks the anniversary o two o themost signicant water contamination events inCanada’s history:• 10
anniversary o Walkerton, ON – seven peopledied and thousands o residents became ill (somepermanently) because o
contamination othe town’s drinking water source.• 5
anniversary o Kashechewan First Nations, ON– three quarters o the community’s members wereevacuated when
was reported in the drinkingwater supplies.While high-prole disasters such as Walkerton are rareoccurrences in Canada, they are a tragic reminder othe high cost o ailing to protect the water we drink.Despite the lessons o Walkerton and Kashechewan,troubling signs suggest there are still signicant risksto Canada’s drinking water. For example, in April2008, the Canadian Medical Association reportedthat there were 1,776 drinking water advisories ineect across Canada – this is simply unacceptable ina developed country in the 21
Century.Unequal access to sae drinking water in Canadais particularly evident in Canada’s First Nationscommunities and in rural and remote communities.As o April 30th, 2010, there were 116 First Nationscommunities across Canada under a Drinking WaterAdvisory and it is estimated that 20–40% o allrural wells in Canada have nitrate concentrations orcoliorm bacteria counts in excess o drinking waterguidelines and posing threats to health.
Unlike the United States and European Union, wedo not have legally binding national standardsor drinking water. Instead, we have voluntarynational guidelines and provinces establish theirown standards which may or may not meet thoseguidelines. This leaves signicant populations, suchas First Nations and rural communities, vulnerableto waterborne diseases, boil water advisoriesand associated health eects. The patchwork odrinking water laws across the country also meansthat depending on the province or territory youlive in, you may have access to a higher standardo drinking water than your riends or amily inanother part o the country. In act, only thoseliving in Alberta, Nova Scotia, Quebec,Ontario andYukon have governments that have “adopted” the
Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality
. Butnot all o those jurisdictions require testing or theull suite o parameters in the Guidelines. Close tohal o Canadian jurisdictions lack mandatory testingor chemical contamination o drinking water andover hal do not require advanced water treatmentor surace water (as is required in the EuropeanUnion and United States).
The ull report,
Seeking Water Justice: StrengtheningLegal Protection for Canada’s Drinking Water
,highlights the need or all levels o government tobe involved in the provision o sae drinking water toCanadians. The report identies gaps in the systemand outlines steps or the ederal government totake to ensure all Canadians, including First Nations,are legally entitled to a minimum quality o drinkingwater. These steps include:
The ederal government should collaborate withprovincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governmentsto assist all parties in adopting legally bindingdrinking water quality standards (the maximumallowable concentrations o potentially harmulsubstances in drinking water) in their own legislationwithin ve years. This joint eort will ensurethe health and saety o all Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians despite which province or