WaterAid Canada Staff and Board 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 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 each day on 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. Roles and responsibilities stipulated by Government of Canada for drinking water in First Nations communities and the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act (2013) - legislation repealed in 2022 with new legislation pending as of 2023 - are such that NGOs like WaterAid Canada are not best placed or 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 and roles and responsibilities 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 and upholding accountability of duty bearers for 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 on 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 collaboration with countries where WaterAid operates, particularly around holistic approaches to water protection, climate resilience, and addressing systemic inequalities in WASH access.
- Assembly of First Nations National Water Declaration (2013)
- First Nations Led Process for New Safe Drinking Water and Wastewater Legislation (2018 – repealed 2022)
- National Water Engagement Documents of the Assembly of First Nations (2018)
- Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Parliament of Canada – Report 3 Access to Safe Drinking Water in First Nations Communities (2021)
- Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality (2022)
- Canada Water Agency - Overview (2022)