Living Conditions in Canada are equivalent to those of Third World Countries: How Indigenous Communities across Canada are living with water advisories

by gidget on November 10, 2017 - 11:25am

Living Conditions in Canada are equivalent to those of Third World Countries: How Indigenous Communities across Canada are living with water advisories

The relationship between the Canadian government and its Indigenous peoples is long-standing and riddled with a colonial legacy that marks the underbelly of Canada’s history. With roughly 156 water advisories in full affect throughout Canada, Global News reports that many First Nations are being dealt the short end of the stick (Minsky 2017). The Liberal government spoke of water sanitization as being of top priority of their political agenda and promised $1.8 billion, as well as a 5-year management plan in hopes of rectifying the peripheral living conditions faced by many of Canada’s Indigenous communities (Minsky, 2017). The ‘giver of life’ and ‘the beating heart of the people’ are just a few of the ways in which First Nations communities have explained the significance of water to their culture, making this issue all too personal (Minsky, 2017).

In the fall of 2016, 110 First Nations communities were still faced with unsafe drinking water, making the Liberal government’s promise to address this social justice issue seemingly futile. The Canadian government has exercised material power by restricting many Indigenous communities access to drinkable water. In this context, the role of the state is to influence Canada’s environmental management agenda as well as the allocation of government funding. With minimal progress being made to rectifying the current water conditions, the issue then becomes a question of interests. After successfully repairing 8 of the 156 advisories, it appears that the government’s interest in this issue have tapered off. The government is responsible for funding the costs of this resource management issue although the First Nations have yet to receive this funding and are left at a disadvantage.  

First Nations communities in Canada want to be treated as equals. The lack of monitoring of the health and safety of Canada’s First Nations communities implies that they are being marginalized and not prioritized by the Liberal government (Minsky, 2017). For over 60 years, cases of mercury poisoning have been found in the Wabaseemoong and the Grassy Narrows First Nations meaning unpotable water is nothing new for many of the Indigenous communities of Canada (Jeffords, 2017). The example of the Wabaseemoong and the Grassy Narrows First Nations peoples is indicative of the government’s influence over public spending, or lack thereof, being allocated to the well-being of Indigenous communities.

The Liberal Government is controlling the traditional practices of Indigenous communities through narrowly acknowledging the issues of unclean drinking water as well as exercising discursive power over media coverage and public education. Nearly 110 First Nations communities are living in conditions that are comparable to those of third-world countries, although this is an issue that is seldom mentioned in educational outreach programs and media coverage. The lack of acknowledgment of this issue sets the precedent that neglecting First Nations communities is acceptable, or something to be thought of as normal, in resource management throughout Canada. Only through non-state led organizations, such as the David Suzuki Foundation information campaigns, has the Canadian government implemented a strategy for action. The government’s plan to restore the water in First Nations communities was established in 2016 and very little change has been made thus far. Under the Canadian Water Act of 1985, it is the duty of the Federal government to establish and maintain comprehensive resource management plans with provincial governments. This way, clean and potable drinking water can be a reality for all Canadians (Minister of Justice, 2014). 


Minsky, A. (2017, Feb. 9). “First Nations ‘living in Third World conditions ‘as communities endure water advisories”. Global News. Retrieved from

Other Sources:

Jeffords, S. (2017, October 24). “Ontario not doing enough on Pollution in Indigenous communities: watchdog”. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from

Minister of Justice. (2014). Canada Water Act. Ottawa: ON. Retrieved from