August 27, 2021 – Ottawa, Ontario
A Joint Submission by Inuit Circumpolar Council and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami to the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation documents barriers to clean drinking water and sanitation among Inuit in Alaska, Canada and Greenland. The Submission provides recommendations to the UN Special Rapporteur as well as to UN Member States to ensure that governments can overcome these challenges.
Drinking water and sanitation infrastructure as well as water and sanitation services in Inuit communities tend to be of substandard quality compared to service levels available to most other U.S., Canadian, and Danish citizens. Inuit are citizens of affluent countries yet the quality of drinking water, sanitation infrastructure, and services found in our communities often mirror those found in developing nations.
More than half of the Inuit communities affiliated with ICC, which represents 180,000 Inuit in Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Chukotka (Russia), do not have access to piped drinking water and sewer systems. Many households, particularly in Alaska and Greenland, must haul their own drinking water from community taps and dispose of their own sewage by hand, contributing to water rationing as well as elevated rates of disease, particularly among children.
Like many Inuit communities in Alaska, most Inuit communities in Canada rely on trucked water delivery and sewage removal services. Crowding caused by the chronic housing shortage in Inuit Nunangat communities places stress on drinking water and sanitation services that are often impacted by other factors, including climate change, severe weather, and other infrastructure deficits, which compound these challenges.
Inuit communities tend to be under boil water advisories more often than non-Inuit communities and some have faced long-term boil water advisories lasting longer than a year. The frequency of boil water advisories experienced by Inuit is indicative of the aging and substandard quality of water and sanitation infrastructure and related services in our communities.
There are practical measures governments can take to improve access to drinking water and sanitation. For example, recently the government of Canada prioritized ending long-term BWAs on First Nations reserves through investments in First Nations water infrastructure. The Submission recommends that such investments in drinking water and sanitation infrastructure include Inuit communities.
All of these challenges remain largely overlooked by researchers and governments, contributing to limited data and information that could inform coherent and effective policy responses. Furthermore, Inuit face challenges in relation to accessing the funding required to improve drinking water and sanitation systems and services. The Submission calls on States to make major new Inuit-specific investments in Inuit community water and sanitation infrastructure and to take measures to streamline processes for community procurement of funding.