Aboriginal Policy Research Consortium International (APRCi)
Water which is safe to drink straight from the tap is taken for granted by many Canadians, despite the fact that access to safe drinking water is far from universal. Across the country, many communities endure conditions unimaginable to most Canadians: water accessed through pipe systems causes gastrointestinal illness, must be boiled prior to consumption or not used at all, and these drinking water advisories can last anywhere from a few days to several years. First Nations are over-represented in both the number and severity of drinking water advisories, and face considerable barriers in (re-)establishing clean drinking water in their communities. These challenges have been increasingly recognized by all levels of government – this recognition led to the development of the First Nations Drinking Water Safety Programme and to new legislation creating enforceable drinking water standards on First Nations reserves.
Last year’s World Water Day also marked the midpoint of the United Nations Decade for Indigenous Peoples, and honouring the importance of water to the health of Indigenous communities, the Centre for Aboriginal Health Research and partners held the Consensus Conference on Small Water Systems Management for the Promotion of Indigenous Health, March 21-23, 2010. This three day event brought together community members, researchers, policy makers, and health and water services professionals to discuss pathways to achieving universal safe drinking water in Canada and abroad. Two themes emerged from the discussions as important to addressing safe drinking water in Canada: collaboration across disciplinary boundaries and greater self-determination among First Nations.
In the months following the conference, the Centre for Aboriginal Health Research initiated a workshop series exploring economic and social barriers to safe drinking water experienced by First Nations in British Columbia. Working in partnership with six communities, CAHR delivered workshops on topics specific to local needs.
The book that follows shares the proceedings of the conference and a report summarizing the process and findings of the workshop series. On the Centre’s website (www.cahr.uvic.ca) you can also access the video recordings of the conference presentations, as well as a trailer video and a full documentary produced as a result of the conference. It is my hope that these materials open a door to interdisciplinary exploration of the issue and support ‘two-eyed seeing’ where water is concerned.