Beyond Physical: Social Dimensions of the Water Crisis on Canadas First Nations and Considerations for Governance

Maya Basdeo, Lalita Bharadwaj


The provision of safe drinking water is one of the most pressing health issues facing First Nations communities in Canada. Despite numerous government assessments, training initiatives, and billions of dollars in targeted funding, access to safe drinking water continues to be a perennial problem in communities nationwide. The water crisis in these communities, characterized by poor access to safe, sustainable, and reliable drinking water sources, is greater than that perceived by the alarming incidence reports of physical illness, waterborne infections and boil water advisories. A host of issues related to inequity, justice, and institutional trends are reflective of, and contribute to, an erosion of the social, cultural and spiritual health of First Nations in Canada. We seek to provide an overview of the social dimensions of the water crisis. By situating the issues in this broader context, we hope to provide the basis for greater dialogue and depth of study into the socio-cultural implications of the water crisis. If tenable solutions to the myriad of water issues affecting First Nations people in Canada are to be realized, an acknowledgement and understanding of the historical, cultural, social, political, economic and legal framework that have steered our arrival at the current situation must be considered.

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