Beyond Physical: Social Dimensions of the Water Crisis on Canada’s First Nations and Considerations for Governance

Authors

  • Maya Basdeo School of Environment and Sustainability, University Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada
  • Lalita Bharadwaj School of Environment and Sustainability, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada School of Public Health, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada

Abstract

The provision of safe drinking water is one of the most pressing health issues facing First Nations communities in Canada. Despite numerous government assessments, training initiatives, and billions of dollars in targeted funding, access to safe drinking water continues to be a perennial problem in communities nationwide. The water crisis in these communities, characterized by poor access to safe, sustainable, and reliable drinking water sources, is greater than that perceived by the alarming incidence reports of physical illness, waterborne infections and boil water advisories. A host of issues related to inequity, justice, and institutional trends are reflective of, and contribute to, an erosion of the social, cultural and spiritual health of First Nations in Canada. We seek to provide an overview of the social dimensions of the water crisis. By situating the issues in this broader context, we hope to provide the basis for greater dialogue and depth of study into the socio-cultural implications of the water crisis. If tenable solutions to the myriad of water issues affecting First Nations people in Canada are to be realized, an acknowledgement and understanding of the historical, cultural, social, political, economic and legal framework that have steered our arrival at the current situation must be considered.

References

Adelson, N. 2005. The Embodiment of Inequity: Health Disparities in Aboriginal Canada. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 96(S2): 45 – 61.

Anderson, R.B. and Bone, R.M. 2003. Two World Views: Conflict, Accommodation and Synthesis. In R.B. Anderson and R.M. Bone (Eds), Natural Resources and Aboriginal People in Canada. Captus Press: Concord, ON.

Arquette, M., Cole, M., Cook, K., LaFrance, B., Peters, M., Ransom, J., Sargent, E., Smoke, V. and Stairs, A. 2002. Holistic Risk-Based Environmental Decision Making: A Native Perspective. Environmental Health Perspectives, 110(2): 259 – 264.

Auclair, N. and Simeone, T. 2010. Legislative Summary – Bill S-11: The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act. Parliamentary Information and Research Service Publication No. 40-3-S11-E, 7 June 2010, Library of Parliament, Ottawa, ON.

Ayach, B.B. and Korda, H. 2010. Type 2 diabetes epidemic in First Nations people of Canada. Ethnicity and Disease, 20(3): 300 – 303.

Bakker, K. and Cook, C. 2011. Water Governance in Canada: Innovation and Fragmentation. Water Resources Development, 27(2): 275 – 289.

Bartlett, R.H. 1978. The Indian Act of Canada. Buffalo Law Review, 27: 581 – 615.

Bertolas, R.J. 1998. Cross Cultural Environmental Perception of Wilderness. The Professional Geographer, 50(1): 98 – 111.

Bharadwaj, L., Nilson, S., Judd-Henry, I., Ouelette, G., Parenteau, L., Watson, Chief D., Bear, Chief D., Ledoux, Chief G. and Bear, Chief A. 2006. Waste Disposal in First-Nations Communities: The Issues and Steps Towards the Future. Journal of Environmental Health, 68(7): 35 – 39.

Blackstock, M. 2001. Water: A First Nations’ spiritual and ecological perspective. Journal of Ecosystems and Management, 1(1): 2 – 14.

Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC). 2011. 8th Fire: The Tragedy of Pikangikum. Accessed at: www.cbc.ca/doczone/8thfire/2011/.../pikangikum.html

Castleden, H., Garvin, T. and Huu-ay-aht First Nation. 2008. Modifying Photovoice to Community-Based Participatory Indigenous Research. Social Science and Medicine, 66: 1393 – 1405.

Chiefs of Ontario. 2008. Water Declaration of the First Nations in Ontario, October 2008.

Christensen, R., Goucher, N. and Phare, M.A. 2010. Seeking Legal Justice: Strengthening legal water protection for Canada’s drinking water. Ecojustice and Forum for Leadership on Water (FLOW).

Clark, M. 1999. Shigellosis and First Nations Communities. Ottawa: First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, Health Canada.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development (CESD). 2005. Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to the House of Commons: Chapter 5 - Drinking water in First Nations communities. Office of the Auditor General of Canada: Ottawa, ON.

Cresswell, T. 2005. Place: A Short Introduction. Wiley Blackwell: London.

Day, R.J.F. 2010. Angry Indians, Settler Guilt, and the Challenges. In L. Simpson and K.L. Ladner (Eds), This is an Honour Song: Twenty Years Since the Blockades. Arbeiter Ring Publishing: Winninpeg, MB.

Duncan, L.F. and Bowden, M.A. 2009. A Legal Guide to Aboriginal Drinking Water: A Prairie Province Perspective. s.l: Alberta Law Foundation.

Dupuis, R. 2002. Justice for Canada’s Aboriginal People. James Lorimer & Co.: Toronto, ON.

Durie, M.H. 2003. The health of indigenous peoples: Depends on genetics, politics, and socioeconomic factors. British Medical Journal, 326: 510 – 511.

Eggerston, L. 2008. Despite federal promises, First Nations’ water problems persist. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 178(8): 985.

Elliot, L. 2000. Ontario Native suicide rate one of highest in the world, expert says. Accessed at: http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/41/353.html

Erasmus, G. 1992. The Solution We Favour for Change. In B. Richardson (Ed), Drumbeat: Anger and Renewal in Indian Country. Summerhill Press: Toronto, ON.

Fixico, D.L. 1995. The Struggle for Our Homes: Indian and White Values and Tribal Lands. In J. Weaver (Ed), Defending Mother Earth: Native American Perspectives on Environmental Justice. Orbis Books: Maryknoll, NY.

Frohlich, K.L. and Potvin, L. 2010. Commentary: Structure or agency? The importance of both for addressing social inequalities in health. International Journal of Epidemiology, 39: 378 – 379.

Gregory, R. and Trousdale, W. 2009. Compensating aboriginal cultural losses: An alternative approach to assessing environmental damages. Journal of Environmental Management, 90: 2469 – 2479.

Hanrahan, M. 2003. Water Rights and Wrongs. Alternatives Journal, 29(1): 31 – 36

Harada, M., Hanada, M., Jajiri, M., Inoue, Y., Hotta, N., Fujino, T., Takaoka, S. and Ueda, K. 2011. Mercury pollution in First Nations Groups in Ontario, Canada: 35 years of Canadian Minamata Disease. Journal of Minamata Studies, 3: 3 – 30.

Health Canada. 2009. Drinking Water Advisories in First Nations Communities in Canada – A National Overview 1995-2007. Accessed at: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fniah-spnia/pubs/promotion/_environ/2009_water-qualit-eau-canada/index-eng.php

Health Canada. 2010a. First Nations, Inuit and Aboriginal Health. Accessed at:

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fniah-spnia/promotion/public-publique/watereau-eng.php

Health Canada. 2010b. First Nations, Inuit and Aboriginal Health, Drinking Water and Wastewater. Accessed at: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fniah-spnia/promotion/public-publique/water-eau-eng.php#how_many

Health Council of Canada. 2005. The health status of Canada’s First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples. Health Council of Canada: Toronto, ON.

Hunter, L.M., Logan, J., Goulet, J.G. and Barton, S. 2006. Aboriginal Healing: Regaining Balance and Culture. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 17(1): 13 – 22.

Johansen, B.E. 2003. Indigenous Peoples and Environmental Issues: An Encyclopedia. Greenwood Press: Westport, CT.

Kairos and Akaitcho Dene. 2006. Report on the Tu Cho International Indigenous Water Rights Conference. Yellowknife, NWT.

Kirmayer, L.J., Brass, G.M., and Tait, C.L. 2000. The Mental Health of Aboriginal Peoples: Transformations of Identity and Community. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 45: 607 – 616.

Kovach, M. 2009. Indigenous Methodologies: Characteristics, Conversations, and Contexts. University of Toronto Press: Toronto, ON.

O’Connor, D.R. 2002a. Report of the Walkerton Inquiry: The events of May 2000 and related issues, part one. Queen's Printer for Ontario: Toronto, ON.

O’Connor, D.R. 2002b. Report of the Walkerton Inquiry: The events of May 2000 and related issues, part two. Queen's Printer for Ontario: Toronto, ON.

Patrick, R.J. 2011. Uneven access to safe drinking water for First nations in Canada: connecting health and place through source water protection. Health & Place, 17: 386 – 389.

Phare, M.S. 2011. Restoring the Lifeblood: Water, First Nations and Opportunities for Change. Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation: Toronto, ON.

Phare, M.S. 2009. Denying the Source: The Crisis of First Nations Water Rights. Rocky Mountain Publishing: Surrey, BC.

Polaris Institute. 2008. Boiling Point! Six community profiles of the water crisis facing First Nations within Canada. Polaris Institute: Ottawa, ON.

Laboucan-Massimo, M. 2010. Rights and Roots: Addressing a New Wave of Colonialism. In L. Simpson and K.L. Ladner (Eds), This is an Honour Song: Twenty Years Since the Blockades. Arbeiter Ring Publishing: Winninpeg, MB.

Lebel, P.M. and Reed, M.G. 2010. The Capacity of Montreal Lake, Saskatchewan to Provide Safe Drinking Water: Applying a Framework for Analysis. Canadian Water Resources Journal, 35(3): 317 – 388.

Loo, T. 2007. Disturbing the Peace: Environmental Change and the Scales of Justice on a Northern River. Environmental History, 12(4): 895 – 919.

Mercredi, O. and Turpel, M.E. 1994. In The Rapids: Navigating the Future of First Nations. Penguin Books: Toronto, ON.

Mescarenhas, M. 2007. Where the Waters Divide: First Nations, Tainted Water and Environmental Justice in Canada. Local Environment, 12(6): 565 – 577.

McGregor, D. 2008. Anishnaabe-Kwe, Traditional Knowledge, and Water Protection. Canadian Woman Studies, 26(3/4): 26 – 30.

NAHO. 2002. Improving Population Health, Health Promotion, Disease Prevention and Health Protection Services and Programs for Aboriginal People. Accessed at: www.naho.ca/english/pdf/research_pop_health.pdf

Rutherford, S. 2010. Colonialism and the Indigenous present: an interview with Bonita Lawrence. Race & Class, 52(1): 9 – 18.

Simeone, T and Troniak, S. 2012. Bill S-8: The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act. Publication No. 41-1-S8-E. Accessed at: www.parl.gc.ca/Content/LOP/LegislativeSummaries/41/1/s8-e.pdf

Statt, G.R. 2003. Tapping into Water Rights: An Exploration of Native Entitlement in the Treaty 8 Area of Northern Alberta. Canadian Journal of Law and Society, 18(1): 103 – 129.

Saul, J.R. 2009. A Fair Country: Telling Truths About Canada. Penguin: Toronto, ON.

Shkilnyk, A.M. 1985. A Poison Stronger than Love: The Destruction of an Ojibwa Community. Yale University Press: New Haven.

Turner, N.J., Gregory, R., Brooks, C., Failing, L. and Satterfield, T. 2008. From Invisibility to Transparency: Identifying the Implications. Ecology and Society, 13(2): 7. [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol13/iss2/art7

Waldram, J.B., Herring, D.A. and Young, T.K. 2006. Aboriginal health in Canada: Historical, cultural, and epidemiological perspectives. University of Toronto Press: Toronto, ON.

Walkem, A. 2007. The Land is Dry: Indigenous Peoples, Water, and Environmental Justice. In K. Bakker (Ed), Eau Canada: The Future of Canada’s Water. UBC Press: Vancouver, BC.

Wheatley, M. 1997. Social and Cultural Impacts of Mercury Pollution on Aboriginal Peoples in Canada. Water, Air and Soil Pollution, 97: 85 – 90.

Windsor, J.E. and Mcvey, J.A. 2005. Annihilation of both place and sense of place: the experience of the Cheslatta T’En Canadian First Nation within the context of large-scale environmental projects. The Geographical Journal, 171(2): 146 – 165.

Downloads

Published

2013-04-08