The Sacred Water Ceremony, hosted by local First Nations, the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the British Columbia Government and Service Employees Union took place Sunday in Victoria, on International Human Rights Day.
The event was aimed to raise awareness for the ongoing issues many indigenous communities face in accessing clean and safe water.
Buckets lined the sidewalk adjacent of the event, following the opening remarks individuals would carry a bucket, representing safe water, to multiple meeting points, starting beside Beacon Hill and ending at Victoria’s inner harbor. Each stop had discussions on various topics such as water conservation and safe water access.
Elder Joan Morris from the Lekwungen – Songhees Nation provided a blessing for the beginning of the ceremony and stressed that “All of us need to work in unity.”
Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia Judith Guichon was also in attendance at the event and spoke about the impacts of climate change and the need for a better strategy in solving the issue of safe water access.
“It’s hard to believe that in this day-and-age in a country such as Canada there could be communities without access to quality water and healthy water, one has to ask how this situation did arise,” Said Guichon.
Guichon then pulled out a book titled The Hard Work of Hope, and quoted that “Climate change is real and it is here…you cant have a national climate strategy, without a national water strategy.”
Sussanne Skidmore, the Executive vice president of the British Columbia Government and Service Employees Union, was also in attendance said that the union was there to celebrate the ceremony, the land, and Human Rights day.
“There are people in this country and province who dont have clean drinking water and that is a basic human right that everyone should have,” Said Skidmore, “We are here today to celebrate the water and also call on government [federal] to start fixing that problem [of safe water access issues] they have made some very big promises.”
Cheif Don Tom, from the Tsartlip First Nation, elaborated on Guichon’s points on climate change, and also spoke on the Site C project.
“We have work to do…it is us who have to remember that we have to do a better job…reminding our elected officials they have a job to do, and we put them in office for a reason,” said Tom. “Cite C is a bad idea, and we are watching…and to the BC NDP please be the government we want you to be, protect our waters, and protect our land.”
Many indigenous communities are under some type of water advisory, Health Canada reports there are 67 long-term drinking water advisories in place, ‘long-term’ refers to advisories in place for longer than a year.
Although, the number is expected and has been reported higher in the recent past, this discrepancy most likely due to jurisdictional complications, and how recently Health Canada is only reporting on systems financially supported by Indigenous Services Canada, a change that took place on Dec. 7.