Autumn Peltier, Leader of the Clean Water Movement

Image Credit: Linda Roy via Ireva Photography

“I am very unhappy with the choices you’ve made”

As 13-year-old Autumn Peltier was going to gift Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with a ceremonial copper water bowl (used to symbolize the responsibility of protecting the country’s water), she courageously shared these words with him. The Canadian government had let the issue of toxic water in Indigenous reserves go unresolved for years, so she addressed Trudeau directly.

Born September 27, 2004, in Wiikwemikoong, Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Autumn Peltier has been an advocate of clean water for all, particularly focusing on the Indigenous people of Canada. She recalled attending a ceremony at Serpent River First Nation in Ontario when she was 8 years old. Noticing signs that read “toxic drinking water,” she began to look into the issue more. She credits her mother, Stephanie, and great-aunt, Josephine Mandamin (also known as “Grandmother Water Walker”) for instilling her with respect for the environment and teaching her the importance of clean water.

Image Credit: Toronto Star

Many Canadian Indigenous reserves lack clean water. Contaminated water is due to a variety of factors like pollution. Due to being unable to fund and manage their water systems, these communities find parasites and bacteria in their water sources. As the government continues to dismiss the issue, the First Nations communities are more susceptible to illnesses. Around 90,000 illnesses are caused by contaminated water in Canada. Since 2015, the Canadian government has lifted 88 long-term drinking advisories, but they are still a long way from providing clean water to all reserves. As of November 2021, 71 communities are under drinking water advisories.

After criticizing Trudeau’s water initiatives, Peltier gained international attention. Since then, she has shared her powerful messages with organizations like the United Nations. In 2018, she spoke before the UN General Assembly at the launch of the International Decade for Action on Water for Sustainable Development. In April of 2019, she was appointed as the Chief Water Commissioner of the Anishinabek Nation.

Image Credit: Richard Drew via The Associated Press

Her courage has inspired millions and earned her international recognition. She was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2017, 2018, and 2019. Additionally, Maclean’s magazine named her as one of Canada’s “20 people to watch in 2020” alongside other environmentalists like Catherine McKenna (former Minister of Environment and Climate Change of Canada).

Autumn Peltier is leading the revolution for clean water access everywhere. She has and will continue to inspire millions. If you would like to join this cause, please check out the resources below:

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