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AFN Manitoba Regional Chief to speak at UN water conference

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A Manitoban is in New York this week speaking up for the water rights of First Nations people across Canada.

Cindy Woodhouse, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Regional Chief for Manitoba, is attending the United Nations 2023 Water Conference, the first such event since 1977.

"It’s a significant opportunity to talk about First Nations working with Canada to ensure that there will be safe drinking water and sanitation for everyone," said Woodhouse.

Woodhouse said she'll be discussing the UN's goals for sustainable development, with a focus on Goal 6: clean water and sanitation. "Both Canada and First Nations are actively involved in discussions at the UN with respect to the 2030 agenda on sustainable development."

Woodhouse will be speaking twice at the event. She said her message to attendees will be clear. "The right to safe drinking water is a human right, (I'll be) continuing to push Canada to close the water infrastructure gap and to try and have it done by 2030," she said. "Time is ticking and people need support out there."

Woodhouse said she's also going to take the opportunity to network with delegates from around the world and educate them about what is happening in Canada.

"We have wonderful advocates that are trying to end long-term drinking water advisories in First Nations communities," said Woodhouse. "In February of this year, there were 32 across Canada and three right in Manitoba."

While Woodhouse is excited at the opportunity to speak at the conference, she said it is somewhat bittersweet. "I wish we didn’t have to talk about safe drinking water or access to sanitation. I wish we had all those basic things," she said. "But here we are trying to find solutions to close those gaps. And to help First Nations and Canadians think long term, and to make sure that our grandchildren have clean drinking water."

The United Nations 2023 Water Conference is happening at the UN Headquarters in New York Mar. 22-24, 2023.

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