Transformation and re-formation: First Nations and water in Canada




Littlechild, Danika Billie

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First Nations in Canada face numerous challenges when it comes to water. First Nations experiences with water range from individual and family challenges, including limited or no access to safe drinking water, to broader collective concerns such as exercising aboriginal or treaty rights to hunt, fish or gather. Many changes are in play, centered on the element of water: the implementation of a new federal act regarding drinking water on First Nations reserves; numerous amendments to various federal and provincial environmental laws and regulations; and a recent set of ground-breaking court decisions on First Nations identity, aboriginal title, historic treaties and water. A sense of urgency comes from these developments. Over the last number of decades, First Nations have been negotiating complex and unwieldy relationships (or the absence of relationship) with federal, provincial/territorial and municipal governments regarding water — for spiritual/ceremonial use, domestic use, waste disposal, and economic development; and as a function of treaty and aboriginal rights and title. Over this time, the laws and standards used to frame such relationship(s) have been “mainstream” or Canadian. This thesis proposes that in combination with powerful Indigenous legal traditions, the new constitutional and legislative paradigm signifies a transformative and re-formative shift with regard to First Nations and water.



First Nations, Aboriginal, Water Law, Water, Nipiy