12.3.5 Health Threats

Dr. Ross Pink

Canada is a top-15 economy in the world, it passed a Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, it is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989, and it is a substantial contributor to United Nations’ peacekeeping missions and refugee relief. Yet, with respect to First Nations communities in Canada, successive governments have been condemned by the United Nations and human rights observers for the deplorable living conditions on numerous First Nations reserves and the absence of water security and safe drinking water.

Human rights laws, no matter how nobly they are worded, are inadequate unless there is proper and verifiable enforcement. A devastating example of health threats under the human security paradigm is found in the water security crisis faced by multiple Canadian First Nations reserves. Specifically, one could posit that the Charter articles 7, life, liberty and the security of the person and 15, equality are violated in this context.

In October 2020, about 250 members of the Ontario Neskantaga First Nations were evacuated to Thunder Bay after oil and contaminants were detected in the water supply. High levels of hydrocarbons were also found in the water supply. The people in this community have been living under a boil water advisory for 26 years, the longest such advisory in Canadian history. Boiling water removes bacteria but not toxic metal from the water. In December 2020, the federal government released a statement announcing that 22 long-term boil water advisories would continue until at least March of 2021. This date was targeted by the Trudeau administration as the point at which boil water advisories would no longer be needed. The United Nations, of which Canada is a member, declared in a General Assembly in July 2010 resolution that water is recognized as a human right. Yet, Canada continues to fail First Nations’ communities on one of the most pressing and urgent human rights, that of safe drinking water. Critics of the Canadian government note that the First Nations’ water crisis is partially due to systemic discrimination and vestiges of an unequal and oppressive power structure in Canada. The human security paradigm would address this crisis in the context of the Canadian government’s failure to provide a ‘people-centered’ approach to water security for First Nations citizens.


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Political Ideologies and Worldviews: An Introduction Copyright © 2021 by Dr. Ross Pink is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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