Water sustains all life and runs through our territories as the lifeblood of our lands. It is a sacred resource to our communities, and we rely on access to clean water for health and wellbeing, culture, customs and traditions and sustenance. We have a responsibility to protect and conserve water for our communities and for the generations to come. As our lands and territories become more industrialized, and as climate change continues to pose significant threats to First Nations communities across B.C., water security is becoming a topic that is more important than ever before. If one thing is clear, it is that our water sources much be protected.
Since time immemorial, First Nations have been stewards of their lands and waters, and they must be part of the solution. The BC Assembly of First Nations is calling on the Provincial and Federal Governments for First Nations to be included in decision-making processes with respect to both legislation, policy and governance around source water and groundwater protection and watershed management which ultimately leads to a safe drinking water supply for First Nations communities and our ecosystem at-large.
In partnership with the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, the First Nations Summit, the First Nations Fisheries Council, and the Assembly of First Nations, the BC Assembly of First Nations will continue to advocate for First Nations jurisdiction over their waters, and for all First Nations reserves in B.C. to have safe and healthy drinking water.
For more information contact Sophia Iliopulos, Regional Water Coordinator
Water Dialogue Series: Canada Water Agency What We Heard Report (2022)
In 2021, the BC Assembly of First Nations (BCAFN) received a mandate from the Chiefs in Assembly through Resolution 07/2021 entitled, "Advocating for First Nations Engagement, Collaboration and Co-Development of the Canada Water Agency". This mandate directed BCAFN staff to seek capacity funding from Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) to promote a discussion with First Nations in BC on the federal government’s proposed Canada Water Agency (CWA). Through this funding, BCAFN hosted a five-part virtual Water Dialogue Series in March 2022. The series provided space for First Nations in BC to discuss the potential impacts of the CWA and provide considerations for its development and implementation. Over 275 participants attended the BCAFN Water Dialogue Series, including First Nations Chiefs, leadership, Knowledge Keepers, youth, women, 2SLGBTQQIA+, tribal council representatives, technical experts, and community members.
During the sessions, BCAFN hosted a range of guest speaker presentations and panel discussions to prompt participants with three key considerations as they relate to the proposed CWA:
- What concerns, issues, and priorities are First Nations facing related to freshwater?
- What immediate steps should Canada take to co-develop the scope and objectives of the Canada Water Agency with First Nations?
- How could the Canada Water Agency work collaboratively with First Nations?
FNLC Water Rights Strategy Pre-Engagement Session: Summary Report (2022)
In 2021, the First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC) renewed its commitment to advance First Nations water rights in BC through BC Assembly of First Nations Resolution 06/2021, First Nations Summit Resolution 0621.12 and Union of BC Indian Chiefs Resolution 2021-43 which commits to amending the 2013 FNLC First Nations Water Rights Strategy (Strategy) to reflect modern priorities towards water security, sustainability, governance, and jurisdiction for First Nations in BC.
On April 27 2022, the FNLC hosted a virtual Pre-Engagement Session to inform preliminary considerations for the Strategy amendments. First Nations Chiefs, leadership, experts, technicians, and community members from across the province were invited to the session to offer input on the 2013 Strategy and share insights on how a revised strategy could best represent First Nations' water-related interests, concerns and priorities in BC.
The FNLC is pleased to share a Summary Report of the session. The insights of this report will inform future water-related engagements with First Nations in BC on the amendments of the 2013 First Nations Water Rights Strategy. Further Strategy engagements will be scheduled for 2022/23. The FNLC will keep Chiefs and leadership updated on the Strategy development and apprised of future meeting dates.