Current First Nations Water Issues
“I think once we understand each other a bit more clearly, we can tell the rest of the people, this is what’s happening to our water and how to take care of it – because it’s taken care of us up till now.” – Violet Poitras, Nakota/Cree Elder, Paul First Nation
In 2015, Justin Trudeau campaigned on a promise to end all long-term drinking water advisories by March 2021. Long-term drinking water advisories are those that have been in place longer than 12 months. In April 2016, there were 78 long-term drinking water advisories affecting federally supported First Nations public water systems. Since November 2015, 85 long-term drinking water advisories were lifted. However, 58 long-term drinking water advisories remain (some long-term drinking water advisories were added to the list).
Unfortunately, even if the federal government was to honour its promise and all long-term drinking water advisories were lifted by March 2021 there would still be many problems. While Indigenous Services Canada is responsible for providing clean drinking water in Indigenous communities, it only considers groupings of five households or more as eligible for funding.
There are First Nations communities like Lytton First Nation, in British Columbia, whose reserves were created by assigning them a patchwork of parcels of land, some more than 100 km apart. Many of their reserves have fewer than five houses. Therefore, the water on these small reserves could still be unsafe after the federal government meets its promise.
Lesson 4: Current First Nations Water Issues
Grades: 6-9 (Science and Social Studies)
Topic: Current issues in First Nations communities that are related to drinking water quality.
Time: Three class periods.
Space requirement: Classroom
Materials: Internet and computers/tablets/smartphones; photocopies of the “First Nations Water Issues Article - 5 Ws + an H” worksheet (one per pair of students); photocopies of “First Nations Water Issues Articles Notes” worksheets (one per student); photocopies of the “Letter to the Prime Minister” worksheet (one per student)
Objectives: Students will learn about current First Nations water issues, they will present one First Nations water issue to the class, they will further research First Nations water issues, and they will write a letter expressing their concerns to the prime minister of Canada.
Keywords: First Nations, Prime Minister, News, Article, Byline, Who, Where, When, What, Why, How, Presentation, Signature
1. Ask students what they know about First Nations communities and drinking water issues other than those in Yellow Quill First Nation, Saddle Lake Cree Nation, Neskantaga First Nation, Grassy Narrows, and Shoal Lake 40. Do they know about drinking water issues in other First Nations communities in Canada? In their province? Near their community?
2. Ask students what information is usually included in a news article (trying to get at the five Ws and one H – Who? Where? When? What? Why? How?)
3. Ask the students if they know what a byline is. If they do not, then tell them what a byline is (a byline is a short phrase that indicates the name of the author of an article in a publication). Ask the students why it might be important to know who wrote the article (it helps with finding the article at a different time, it allows someone to find other articles written by that same journalist, reading several articles by the same journalist might help someone to figure out that journalist’s point of view and whether the journalist is biased).
4. Tell the students that, in pairs, they will find a recent article about First Nations water issues, prepare a presentation, and present the article to the class. Each pair is to tell the teacher the title of their article once they have found the one they will use. (The type of presentation is at the teacher’s discretion in terms of length and time required to prepare – for example, the presentations could be informal two to three minute presentations per pair; or short PowerPoint presentations; or posters, etc.)
5. Give each pair of students one “First Nations Water Issues Article – 5 Ws + an H” worksheet.
6. Have students search the Internet and/or use newspapers to find a recent (within approximately the last month) article about First Nations water issues. Ask the students to let you know once they have found one to ensure there is not any overlap in the class. Using their article, students will complete the “First Nations Water Issues Article – 5 Ws + an H” worksheet and prepare their presentation.
7. Assign the completion of the “First Nations Water Issues Article – 5 Ws + an H” worksheet and the preparation of the presentation as homework.
Optional: The teacher could add a work period for the students to complete the worksheet and prepare their presentation.
1. Distribute one “First Nations Water Issues Articles Notes” worksheet to each student. Tell the students that it is important that they take notes about the First Nations water issues articles because they will write a letter to the prime minister based on their notes and further research.
2. The students, in their pairs, present their First Nations water issues articles to the class. While the students are presenting the other students are completing their “First Nations Water Issues Articles Notes” worksheets.
3. The teacher asks students to look over the notes they have taken based on the presentations and to read the articles and do further research as homework. Students are asked to write notes when they conduct their research. If there are any articles to which students need access but are not available online then the teacher will make photocopies of those articles for the students who will need to read them.
1. The teacher discusses letter format (show the students where they will write the date, where there will be line spaces, and how they will sign their name and then write their name underneath their signature) and tips for writing to the prime minister (keep the letter brief – one page – and be polite) with the students. Also, note that you do not need a stamp to mail a letter to any MP (Member of Parliament), including the prime minister, because every Canadian has the right to make their voice heard to their representatives in government for free.
2. Students are asked to use the information they have researched and what they know from giving their own presentation and listening to the presentations in order to write a letter to the prime minister on the “Letter to the Prime Minister” worksheet. (The teacher can decide whether these letters will be collected at the end of class to be marked or the letters can be completed as homework and submitted the next day.)
Evaluation: The teacher will assess how the pairs of students work together. The students’ presentations will be marked (see the “First Nations Water Issues Presentation Rubric”). The teacher will survey how well the students are completing their “Notes About First Nations Water Issues Articles” worksheets. The students’ letters to the prime minister will be marked (see the “Letter to the Prime Minister Rubric”).
Optional: Help students who would like to send their letter to the prime minister to do so (help them to fix grammar and spelling errors, to put it in an envelope and to write the mailing address and return address on it). You could also work as a class to write one letter to the prime minister from the best thoughts/ideas of the students.