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Assembly of First Nations Water Conference - March 5-7, 2012

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) will be hosting the AFN Water Conference on March 6-7, 2012 and the Water Rights special session, co-hosted by the Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations, on March 5, 2012 at the Marriott Edmonton River Cree Resort in Edmonton, Alberta.

This special session is especially important, as the impending Keystone XL pipeline may become a reality in the near future. Alberta and the Midwest of the US are at risk of water contamination from extensive oilsands production especially near First Nation communities.

The National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo describes the urgent concerns of the AFN with respect to fresh drinking water. “First Nations face increasing difficulties in accessing safe and clean drinking water. Water is a basic element of life that is essential to the overall health and economic well being of First Nations. With intensifying environmental pressures, a call for attention to the condition of our waters and the assertion of First Nations water rights and interests is increasingly important.”

On Monday, March 5, 2012, the agenda, which is still in development, will include First Nations water rights and jurisdiction. People who care about the environment are encouraged to attend including First Nations leadership, Band Councillors, Band Administrators, NGOs, First Nations water rights activists, and First Nations individuals. This event will be co-hosted by The Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations.

On Monday, the morning session opens with Plenary Presentations with Moderator Peter Dinsdale, Chief Operating Officer, AFN. The discussions will include: Treaty and Aboriginal Rights to Water; Alberta Water Rights; The Fight for Indigenous Water Rights, Current issues facing BC First Nations in exercising water rights; and Legal implications of Water Legislation.

At 11:30, the Piikani Nation presents Iikaatowapiwa Naapiitahtaan: The Old Man River is Sacred followed by Lunch Speaker Maude Barlow who will speaks about The Human Right to Water.

To start the afternoon session on Monday, the topic is a Presentation on the National Source Water Protection Strategy by Audrey Mayes, AFN Environment. She will give an overview of the international law and conventions on water rights of Indigenous peoples and the protection of watersheds. Then, the presentations called A First Nation Perspective on Water Management in Manitoba by Greg McIvor, Southern Chiefs Organization Manitoba will cover the adverse effects of water and natural resource development from over utilization of Lake Winnipeg and its tributaries and how it has negatively affected the environment. Moderated discussion, a Panel of Elders, a Breakout Session and the implementation of a draft Water Declaration from a strategic action plan recognizing First Nation jurisdiction over water will follow these discussions.

On Tuesday, March 6 and Wednesday, March 7, 2012, there will be in-depth discussions regarding the technical component of delivering water to First Nations. A tradeshow is also part of this agenda. First Nations leadership, Band Councillors, Band Administrators, water and wastewater technicians are encouraged to participate.

The morning and afternoon sessions for March 6 and 7 are packed with informative presentations and speakers.

Irving Leblanc, Acting Director for Housing & Infrastructure for the AFN, talks about the overall goal for this three day event in Edmonton, Alberta. “The AFN's aim for the Technical Water conference is to facilitate knowledge sharing on government policies, best management practices related to the delivery of safe water, adequate sanitation, and source water protection. The conference brings together presenters from First Nations, Government of Canada, industry and academia. Speakers across the country will be presenting their ideas and concerns about water. The three day event also features a special one day session on a discussion of First Nation water rights. This special session provides a forum for a varied discussion on issues related to current and long-standing issues on First Nations water rights. The goal is to arrive at a framework for a strategic action plan.”

For more information on the Water Rights agenda on March 5 and the AFN Water Conference on March 6-7, 2012.

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