‘Canada Water Agency‘ Established to Bolster Clean Water Challenges

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The Government of Canada launched the ‘Canada Water Agency’ to analyze and address critical issues of drought, floods and deteriorating water quality largely due to climate change.

"Through the Canada Water Agency, our government is looking to strengthen collaboration between the federal government, the provinces, territories, Indigenous Peoples, and other partners to find the best ways to safeguard our freshwater resources for generations to come.  Robust consultations are an important part of this process, and I look forward to the input from Canadians,” says Terry Duguid, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

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First Nations Communities - South of 60 Degrees North

The Neskantaga First Nation, a remote Ojibway-Cree band on the banks of Attawapiskat Lake in northern Ontario, has endured boil-water advisories for the past 26 years.  More than 250 members of the Neskantaga First Nation were evacuated in October 2020 to Thunder Bay, Ontario due to an oily sheen found in their reservoir.

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Not all homes within the First Nation Communities are part of a centralized water system. Some homes rely on water trucks, cisterns and standpipes for their water supply.  Water advisories can represent a single building within a community. 

More than 90% of Ontario water advisories are predominantly precautionary and due to lack of trained staff for operations and maintenance challenges, such as obtaining replacements parts, equipment failure, poor filtration or disinfection during water treatment, etc.

10 First Nations Communities in Northwestern Ontario have one of the highest rates of community-associated MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) in Canada. If left untreated, CA-MRSA can develop into serious, life-threatening complications, such as, infection of the bloodstream, bones and/or lungs.

“Each year in Canada, there are an estimated 90 deaths and approximately 90,000 illnesses caused by contaminated drinking water. These estimates are likely low due to under-reporting,” states Global Bioethics in an article entitled, ‘Water Quality and Human Health in Indigenous Communities in Canada and authored by C. Metcalfe, C. Murray, L. Collins & C. Furgal (2011).

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In 2015, the federal government made a commitment to end all on reserve long-term drinking water advisories by March 2021. 

The Government of Canada reiterated its commitment to creating the Canada Water Agency in the Speech from the Throne and is now delivering on that important promise.

To see a comprehensive list of boil water advisories issued by health units and municipalities across Canada, please click on WaterToday.

Facts

  • Canada's home to a fifth of the world's freshwater resources.  Canadians rank water as the country's most important resource.
  • The Great Lakes region alone supports 51 million jobs or nearly 30% of the combined American and Canadian workforces, and one in four Canadians draw their drinking water directly from the Great Lakes.
  • Freshwater issues affect Inuit, First Nations and Métis communities, and water plays a central role in their well-being and cultural practices.
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Consulting Specifying Engineer Magazine based out of Downers Grove, Illinois states, “As the world’s population continues to grow and our cities and suburbs expand, with more buildings to accommodate the growth, we are facing a major challenge to manage and protect our valuable water resources.  This is becoming especially critical under the added pressure of climate change.”

Resources

Additional Resources

For additional information, Diligencia Investigative Reporting recommends the following articles:

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