First Nations gathering in Vancouver want better water legislation, safe drinking water

Thursday, February 8, 2018
Chantelle Bellrichard
CBC News

In a conference room at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, more than 200 people sat around tables with white linen napkins and jugs topped with ice water on Tuesday morning.

Speaking from the podium at the front of the room, Kevin Hart reminded everyone of another reality in his home province of Manitoba

"Right now, we have elders going down to the lake, chopping holes in the ice to bring water to their households. Right now," the Manitoba regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations said.  

"So, as you can see, there's a lot of work that we need to do, and my passion is to get results for our people."

Hart was among the first speakers on Tuesday morning at a three-day symposium hosted by the Assembly of First Nations titled Reconciliation through Sustainable Water Management.

One of the main items on the agenda is reviewing current legislation around safe drinking water in First Nations communities, which the assembly wants to see repealed, and discussing a way forward with the federal government.

Lawyer Allison Thornton was among the many speakers on Tuesday, which included remarks from water advocate Autumn Peltier and a keynote speech from David Suzuki. Thornton spoke at length about the issues she sees with the current legislation, the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, which was passed by the Harper government in 2013

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