Recognizing water as a fundamental human right has gained significance as a key strategy to protect the one element that nobody can live without - water. The movement started when South Africa enshrined the right to water in their constitution. Canada has not legislated the right to water, but in 2012, it recognized the UN declaration on human right to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
In June of 2017, the Standing Committee on Environment recommended that the Canadian Environmental Protection Act be amended to “recognize, respect and fulfill every person’s right to a healthy environment.” If passed by Parliament, according to Ecojustice, this would be “first time in history that environmental rights have been recognized in Canadian federal law.”
The Government of the Northwest Territories, in 2007, passed a motion recognizing human right to water and in 2010 included it in NWT Water Strategy. The only jurisdiction in Canada to enshrine the right to water in legislation is Quebec.
Recognizing the human right to water has gained in prominence across municipalities in Canada. The Blue Dot Movement, and initiative of David Suzuki Foundation, has seen 152 communities across Canada pass declarations for the recognition of the right.
Though certainly not a silver bullet, recognizing the human right to water will not automatically solve our access to clean water challenges. According to water expert David Boyd “it is a powerful tool that can be used to focus attention and resources on improving access to water for those individuals and communities who currently endure the hardships imposed by the absence of safe water.”
5-Year target: Given work like that of the David Suzuki Foundation’s Blue Dot initiative, it is anticipated that this measure will improve over the next 5-years.
Last updated September 2020