Human Rights Watch/Vimeo
Women from Grassy Narrows and Shoal Island 40 First Nations headed to Geneva in February with Human Rights Watch to argue their case for water before a United Nations committee.

Video: First Nations Women Bring Water Concerns to Geneva


Human Rights Watch brought a group of First Nations women over to Geneva earlier this year to inform the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights about the plight of their water. There were Judy and Taina da Silva of Grassy Narrows First Nation, there to speak of the plethora of mercury that was dumped into their water during the 1960s and ’70s that is still there, poisoning their people.

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There were Linda and Samantha Redsky of Shoal Island 40 First Nation, whose members have been stuck on a manmade island since water was diverted decades ago for Winnipeg.

“Everything is just dumped right on our land,” says Linda Redsky, wearing a t-shirt stating, “Got Water? Thank Shoal Lake #40.”

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“The message that we came here to speak about has been heard very clearly,” said Chief Fawn Wapioke, Iskatewizaagegan (Shoal Lake #39), adding that while it is great to have allies, “It’s really important to ensure that indigenous voices are heard at the international level.”

Their voices apparently were heard, according to the video.

“The UN committee recommended that Canada take into account that indigneous people have a cultural right to water, not just an economic one,” Human Rights Watch states at the end, noting it’s the first time that a human rights treaty body has asked a country to treat water as culturally significant in addition to economically so.

The women’s stories are moving, and the video posted by the Chiefs of Ontario shows what is possible. 

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