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    Review of 'Decolonizing Canadian Water Policy : Lessons From Indigenous Case Studies'

    Decolonizing Canadian Water Policy : Lessons From Indigenous Case StudiesCrossref
    This article does not reflect the current state of water policy or governance in Canada
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    Decolonizing Canadian Water Policy : Lessons From Indigenous Case Studies

    Meaningful lessons about decolonizing water infrastructure (social, economic and political) can be learned if we scrutinize existing governance principles such as the ones provided by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Principles on Water Governance (OECD, 2021). Instead of using only Western frameworks to think about policy within Indigenous spheres of water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH), the Government of Canada can look to Indigenous ways of knowing to compliment their understanding of how to govern areas of WaSH efficiently. In this paper, the term Indigenous encompasses First Nations, Inuit and Métis populations (Hanrahan & Hudson, 2014; Blaser, 2012). I present this paper as a step out of many toward decolonizing water governance in Canada. I hope to have shown in this paper that it is necessary to make space for other voices in water governance. By highlighting the dangers in the Case Studies, three lessons are apparent in this paper: 1. There needs to be an addition of Indigenous Two-Eyed Seeing in water governance; 2. Canada must strengthen its nation-to-nation praxis with Indigenous communities; and 3. There needs to be a creation of space in WaSH that fosters Indigenous voices. This is necessary such that there can be equal participation in policy conversations to mitigate existing problems and explore new possibilities.

      Review information

      This work has been published open access under Creative Commons Attribution License CC BY 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Conditions, terms of use and publishing policy can be found at www.scienceopen.com.

      Environmental ethics,Environmental management, Policy & Planning,Geography,Applied ethics
      Decolonization, Water, Policy, Indigenous, Ethics,Environmental justice and inequality/inequity,Water resources,Environmental policy and practice
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      Review text


      The primary challenge with this paper is that the federal government does not govern water. It provides the service of drinking water and sanitary sewer on reserve lands, but is almost entirely absent from the governance of water in Canada. The author either needs to reorient the focus of the paper to on-reserve water and wastewater provision, or involve the provincial and territorial governments in the discussion. In addition, the author refers interchangeably to infrastructure, governance and policy in the first paragraph. These are three distinct approaches or things that warrant different approaches in an academic paper. Clarity is needed.

      Because the author does not engage meaningfully with the state (colonial) structures for water governance in Canada the too brief overview of OECD principles is without context or meaning. The reader has no sense of how parties/governments/communities in Canada could realize the principles is unclear.

      Two-eyed seeing is one method Indigenous communities in Canada use to acknowledge both Indigenous and western ways of knowing. However, many Indigenous communities do not choose to use that approach and practice their own knowledge holding and communication pursuant to their legal and societal norms. Advocating for adoption of two-eyed seeing across Canada incorrectly imposes a pan-Indigenous (and thus colonial) approach without respecting the self-determination of each Indigenous community to define how they choose to use their knowledge in relation to state processes.

      The case studies in part 2 are exceptionally out of date such that the analysis is inaccurate.


      The definition of Indigenous the author uses is a colonial definition. It is the definition provided in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 that recognizes and affirms aboriginal rights. If the author examined literature by Indigenous authors and scholars, the author would find different definitions of Indigenous that do not refer to state or colonial frameworks.

      What does the author mean by the term decolonizing? The OECD is composed of largely colonized/colonial states that do not necessarily acknowledge Indigenous societies.

      Existing Initiatives and Literature in Canada

      There are several meaningful government-to-government water policy and governance processes underway in Canada right now to which the author does not refer. See, for example the Land and Water Boards in the northern territories to start and then look at the Nicola Chiefs and Koksilah watershed planning processes in British Columbia. (as an aside - what does the author mean by nation-to-nation? Are they referring to agreements between Indigenous nations and the federal government? Given that the federal government is largely absent from water governance, is it not more appropriate to have government-to-government agreements between Indigenous communities and provincial/territorial governments as it is at the province/territorial scale that water is managed?) How does consideration of these different approaches affect the analysis in this paper?

      Many Indigenous communities are using two-eyed seeing-type approaches in their water and environmental governance in relation to state governments at present. See, for example, the Syilx Nation water declaration, the SNS community assessment of the Ajax mine proposal, and the Bras D'or Lakes Collaborative Environmental Planning Initiative. Aimee Craft is an Indigenous scholar who writes of Indigenous community processes relating to water governance and policy/law.

      Many scholars are exploring decolonizing water governance in Canada that the author does not engage. See, for example, Merrell-Ann Phare, Susanne von der Porten, Rob de Loe, Deborah Curran, Oliver Brandes, and Nicole Wilson (to a greater extent than is cited in this article) to name a few.

      How does the role of the First Nations Health Authority in BC or the Atlantic First Nations Water Authority in the maritime provinces, which are involved in assisting with drinking water on reserves and other elements of WaSH, affect the analysis in this paper?

      Other Comments

      Given the amount of funding and program commitment the federal government has put towards addressing the crisis of drinking water on reserves in the past 6 years, the references for the state of on-reserve drinking water are out of date.

      The Simms article does not address WaSH. It is focused on watershed governance.


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