In the lead up to the election, we asked Our Living Waters members what they’d be looking for in a new federal mandate that placed water as a priority. We have compiled that analysis into these 5 priorities for the new Federal Government.
Solve drinking-water crisis across Canadian First Nations communities. It’s almost 2020 after all and it is simply unacceptable that there are communities across the country that have been unable to drink their tap water for years -- some for decades. As per the Assembly of First Nations resolution on the topic, OLW members are looking for the federal government to:
- Repeal and replace the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act that will address the provision of First Nation safe drinking water and wastewater management and create a co-developed framework in accordance with Preliminary Concepts defined and adopted in resolution by the AFN general assembly.
- Direct the AFN to conduct follow-up engagement with First Nations throughout Canada throughout 2019 and 2020 on key issues, concerns and Regional or Local First Nations water initiatives that may be impacted or supported by the repeal and replacement of the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act.
Action on algae-causing pollution. Some of our signature lakes (Lake Erie, Lake Winnipeg, Lake Simcoe) continue to be threatened with pollution caused by run-off. That means the water running off of our farm fields, out of our sewers, and off our lawns and roads is polluting our waterways. The problem is not unique to any one region. Waterways all across the country are experiencing significant problems. It has become a national problem that requires national solutions. Specifically, members are looking for the federal government to
- Bring everyone to the table, including Indigenous governments - to solve problems of algae in our lakes. (Lake Winnipeg Foundation)
- Establish a federal target of 40% high quality vegetation cover across all watersheds and support provinces in reaching these levels in priority watersheds. (Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition)
- Support action on priority watersheds with funding, monitoring and public evaluation plans aimed at meeting established phosphorous reduction targets or establishing new targets where none exist (Canadian Freshwater Alliance).
A renewed Canada Water Act co-developed by First Nations. A recent report on Canada’s Water Security, co-authored by OLW Member groups FLOW and Polis Water Sustainability Project states that, “Addressing the growing public anxiety emerging from our inability to get ahead of these water availability and quality issues offers a genuine opportunity for positive action and leadership by the federal government to restore public confidence and build water security. A commitment to prioritizing water security for all Canadians will take all hands on deck – federal, provincial, territorial, Indigenous governments and public and civil society organizations rowing in the same direction. Canada has to first modernize its legal and institutional architecture that will enable a strengthened cooperative federalism approach to shared water decision-making and management.”
To this end, member groups are looking to the federal government to initiate a process to modernize Canada’s Water Act alongside Indigenous Nations.
Strategically engage with and support community-based water monitoring efforts. Our friends at Lake Winnipeg Foundation summarized this best in their asks to the Federal Government. “Last year, The Gordon Foundation, Living Lakes Canada and WWF-Canada convened a collaborative dialogue ...with... leading Indigenous and non-Indigenous community-based water monitoring practitioners, water scientists, and policy and data experts. The goal was to identify actionable steps the federal government can take to show leadership and support in advancing community-based monitoring of freshwater ecosystems in Canada.” The final report contains a series of recommendations, grouped into five areas of action, including:
- Support capacity building;
- Drive effective monitoring;
- Improve data management;
- Advance regional and national collaboration; and
- Commit to data to inform decision-making.
Support natural infrastructure to aid in climate adaptation, disaster mitigation, and infrastructure renewal. The cross section between water and climate has been made crystal clear. Climate change means water change. From record setting floods to unprecedented drought and forest fires, Canadian communities, and our waterways, have become the front lines of climate impacts. Protecting natural infrastructure will not only aid in keeping our waterways clean and healthy but it will also help contribute to the resiliency our communities face in light of a changing climate. Specifically, members are looking for the federal government to:
- Establish a 5 billion dollar nature based climate solutions fund with dedicated targets to support natural and green infrastructure within our urban areas (CPAWs, Canadian Freshwater Alliance, WWF-Canada, Green Budget Coalition).
- Commit to a federally mandated 40% high quality natural vegetation cover across all watersheds in the country (Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition / Canadian Freshwater Alliance).
- Commit to building a real time public data portal on sewage overflow and discharge occurrences across the country (Swim Drink Fish).