Brianna Ragsdale Marcus Shew


Introduction: Canada is one of the most water-rich countries in the world, so it may be surprising to hear that many Indigenous communities do not have access to clean drinking water. Due to colonial legacies that have been supported in Western society for centuries, Indigenous Peoples have been denied guaranteed access to clean drinking water by the Canadian government. This is a violation of fundamental human rights.  Furthermore, research in this area is incredibly important to Indigenous Peoples’ quality of life in Canada. Previous research has shown that drinking tap water filled with parasites, bacteria, and heavy metals can lead to serious health, socio-economic, and cultural issues in Indigenous communities. This research protocol aims to survey members of several Indigenous communities in Canada to gain insight on the state of water quality, chemically analyze the water, and understand settler-colonialism’s role in modern day policy to improve water accessibility in those communities.

Methods: This study will focus on determining the accessibility, reliability, and quality of drinking water made available by the Canadian government compared to alternatively sourced water, if applicable. For alternative water sources, biocultural indicators, and the observational indicators used to assess water, utilized by Indigenous community members will be recorded. Samples of water from multiple sources will be collected and analyzed for turbidity, and the presence of pathogens.

Results: As a proposed study we have predicted findings based on existing literature.  We expect significant reports of water advisories and the usage of alternative sources of water or unsafe drinking water, posing an increased risk for health issues such as higher rates of gastrointestinal diseases, diabetes, and obesity.

Discussion: Funding issues serve as one of the key underlying obstacles to drinking water advisories in Canada, both in terms of underfunding and an outdated funding formula for water treatment systems. The means to sustain and employ these systems are crucial to ensure safe drinking water is continually available.

Conclusion: It is our hope that through this research, we will contribute data that will better inform policy and awareness to improve the equitable access to clean water in Indigenous communities across Canada.

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Research Protocol