Assembly of First Nations, Amnesty International and Council of Canadians urge political leaders to recognize the human right to water

Media Release
April 28, 2011

(Ottawa, ON) - The Assembly of First Nations (AFN), Amnesty International Canada and the Council of Canadians are calling on all political parties to recognize explicitly the human right to water and sanitation and to commit to ensuring that Canada meets its obligations in upholding these rights for people in Canada.

On July 28, 2010, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution recognizing the right to clean and safe drinking water and sanitation. Canada and a small number of other countries abstained from the vote while the resolution was strongly supported by African, Asian and Latin American countries. On September 30, 2010, the UN Human Rights Council affirmed that the right to water and sanitation is already established in international law under legally-binding UN human rights covenants.

Maude Barlow, Council of Canadians chairperson and former Senior Advisor on Water to the 63rd President of the UN General Assembly, says, “The United Nations has already recognized water and sanitation as a human right, which means that every government must now come up with a plan of action based on the ‘obligation to respect, protect and fulfill’ these rights. I call on the next federal government to explicitly recognize these rights and for all political parties to outline what they will do to ensure that Canada meets its obligations.”

AFN National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo stated, “We have made health and safety one of our priorities in this federal election with access to safe and potable water as a basic human right. Unfortunately, we still have over a hundred communities operating under boil-water advisories. First Nations have inherent rights to water in their traditional territories and these rights were never given up. First Nation leaders have called for Canada to respect the Aboriginal and Treaty right to clean drinking water and want to work in partnership with the next government on this priority, consistent with the principles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

Amnesty International Canada Secretary General Alex Neve says, “Canada has lost its standing as a world leader in pressing for human rights. One of the most blatant failings has been in respect to the situation of Indigenous peoples in Canada. Canada should recognize that clean, drinkable water and sanitation are basic human rights. Canada should also act to ensure that these rights are respected, protected and fulfilled in Canada by working with First Nations communities to address their urgent water and sanitation needs.”

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.  Follow AFN and National Chief Atleo on Twitter @AFN_Updates, @AFN_Comms and @NCAtleo.

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