WaterAid Canada Staff and Board Members have embarked on a multi-year journey of reflection and learning towards Truth and Reconciliation in Canada. WaterAid Canada’s forthcoming 10-year strategy includes a commitment to Truth and Reconciliation:

We are committed, with great humility, to the principles of Truth and Reconciliation in Canada, to learning about the unique history and cultures of Indigenous Peoples of Canada, to truly listen, to undertake a journey alongside Indigenous Peoples and to give space for Indigenous voices to build, teach, and lead.

WaterAid’s global strategy includes the strategic aim of universal access to Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) – addressing WASH inequalities to reach everyone, everywhere aligned with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6. Our vision for a world where everyone, everywhere has sustainable and safe water, sanitation, and hygiene is relevant to the water and sanitation crisis experienced by many Indigenous communities across Canada.

Alongside our peers in the Canadian non-governmental organization (NGO) sector, we are listening and learning to better understand how our mandate for international development in the least developed countries (LDCs) and low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) could best serve the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Jordan’s Principle, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Obligations under the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation (Resolution 64/292) are at the core of WaterAid’s mission and are consistent with our global efforts to strengthen WASH systems to ensure these human rights are realized. WaterAid’s experience across the globe provides insights to the components of a strong system for sustainable WASH including active, empowered people and communities, strong government leadership, accountability, and regulation among other factors for success (WaterAid, 2020). We stand together with colleagues, partners, and communities across the globe in the steadfast belief that water is life.

This listening, learning, and consideration for the mandate of international development NGOs in Canada is teaching us the importance of achieving the human right to water and sanitation and the responsibilities that must accompany the obligations of states and international organizations to provide safe, clean, accessible, and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all. The roles and responsibilities stipulated by the Government of Canada for drinking water in First Nations communities, as outlined in the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act (2013) – which was repealed in 2022 with new legislation pending as of 2023 – indicate that NGOs like WaterAid Canada are neither best placed nor mandated to deliver or build water or sanitation services or infrastructure. Indigenous Services Canada provides funding and advice for water systems on First Nations reserves , roles, and responsibilities which are shared by First Nations communities and Government of Canada, defined by location.

Yet, we are compelled to do our part as advocates and champions of inclusive and sustainable WASH for everyone, everywhere, while upholding the accountability of duty bearers in achieving the human rights to water and sanitation.

As we move forward on this journey of Truth and Reconciliation, WaterAid Canada’s objectives are to:

(i) Deepen WaterAid's understanding through our learning commitment about the interconnection of anti-racism, Reconciliation, and the unacceptable disparities of water and sanitation access in Canada;

(ii) Open WaterAid’s global convening power and influence for universal WASH for everyone, everywhere to create space and amplify voices of Indigenous-led initiatives, organizations, and groups;

(iii) Build relationships to become an ally and advocate, and look to the future to explore Indigenous-to-Indigenous collaborations with countries where WaterAid operates. Focus particularly on holistic approaches to water protection, climate resilience, and addressing systemic inequalities in WASH access.