Class Action Litigation on Drinking Water Advisories on First Nations Reserves

For a French version of this information, please click here.


Acting on behalf of First Nations, Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP along with McCarthy Tétrault LLP have commenced national class action litigation against the Attorney General of Canada for failing to address prolonged drinking-water advisories on First Nations reserves across Canada. The members of these communities are forced to live without access to clean and safe drinking water. The key allegation is that Canada has breached its obligations to First Nations and their members by failing to ensure that reserve communities have clean water.

It is further alleged that Canada has been negligent, breached its fiduciary duties, breached the honour of the Crown, and breached various rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The litigation seeks to advance the rights and well-being of First Nations communities and their members by:

  1. Obtaining compensation for individuals and communities that have suffered from a lack of reliable access to clean water; and
  2. Obtaining a declaration that Canada has an ongoing responsibility to work with First Nations to provide access to clean water. This includes requiring Canada to construct and fund appropriate water systems for First Nations communities.

The class includes all members of First Nations whose communities were subject to a drinking water advisory, including a boil water advisory, do not consume advisory, or do not use advisory, which lasted at least one year from November 8, 1995 to the present. Class members must have been alive two years prior to this action being commenced to be eligible for the compensation sought.

Additionally, First Nations Bands may opt into the class action to advance the rights of their community.

If you or your First Nation would like more information, please contact Kevin Hille at or (416) 598-3694 or Jaclyn McNamara at or (416) 598-1214, or Bryce Edwards at or (416) 981-9342.

Case Updates

Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend and McCarthy Tétrault LLP are representing First Nations in parallel cases at both the Federal Court and the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench.

Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench

Find a copy of the Amended Statement of Claim here.

Find a copy of the certification at the Manitoba Court of Queen’s bench here.

Federal Court

Find a copy of the certification at the Federal Court here.

Nishnawbe Aski Nation

Find a copy of NAN’s supporting resolution, Resolution 20/09 here.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a class action?

A class action is a lawsuit that allows a large group of people with common issues to come together to advance a claim. By joining together, class actions provide a more efficient way to advance legal claims.

This proceeding will allow First Nations themselves to join the action. Bands will be able to share their story, and advance the rights of their community.  The proceeding also allows individuals in these affected communities to advance their rights, and obtain remedies.

What is certification?

The court must first assess whether the claim should be advanced in the form of a class action. The court will consider whether the claim shows an appropriate cause of action, an identifiable class of persons, and issues that are shared in common. The court will also determine whether a class action is a preferable procedure, and whether there is an appropriate representative plaintiff. If the class action is certified by the court, the representative plaintiff or plaintiffs will advance the case on behalf of all class members.

Am I a class member?

First Nations Bands May Register

If you represent a First Nations Band seeking relief for your community, then you may sign up to be part of this action. If your Band wishes to discuss signing up, please contact Kevin Hille at or (416) 598-3694, or Jaclyn McNamara at or (416) 598-1214, or Bryce Edwards at or (416) 981-9342.

Individuals Are Automatically Included

When a class action is certified, a definition of the class is provided. If you are an individual class member meeting the class description, then you do not need to sign up to be part of the class action – you are automatically included.

However, you may opt-out of the class action if you wish to pursue a claim independently or if you are simply not interested in being a part of the class. If the class action is certified, there will be an opt-out deadline and procedure, which will be posted on this page once they are set.

If you would like more information about class membership, please contact Kevin Hille at or (416) 598-3694 or Jaclyn McNamara at or (416) 598-1214, or Bryce Edwards at or (416) 981-9342.

Do I have to pay to be part of the class action?

No. This class action will proceed on a contingency fee basis.  This means that the lawyers bringing the action will only be paid if the class action succeeds. If successful, the lawyers will be paid a portion of the settlement or judgment, but only if the Court approves.

I have further questions.

Please feel free to contact Kevin Hille at (416) 598-3694 or Jaclyn McNamara at or (416) 598-1214, or Bryce Edwards at or (416) 981-9342.

Please also see the McCarthy Tétrault LLP website here, or contact Stephanie Willsey at (416) 601-8962, Toll-Free 1-877-244-7711, Email:

Hear From Participants

Click the links below to hear from various First Nations leaders discuss their experiences with long-term drinking water advisories and the class actions role to address the crisis at the AFN Water Summit on November 24, 2020.

Chief Christopher Moonias, Neskantaga First Nation

Chief Emily Whetung, Curve Lake First Nation

Harry LaForme, Lawyer for the Class

This Case in the Media:

APTN: Report: Lifespan of First Nations water infrastructure cut short by underfunding

The Tyee: Bad Water Sickens First Nations. But Government Doesn’t Track the Toll

APTN: Manitoba First Nation seeking help from United Nations over their lack of clean water

City News: Manitoba First Nation seeking help from United Nations over their lack of clean water

CTV Winnipeg: “We matter like all other Canadians”: Tataskweyak Cree Nation calls on Ottawa to restore clean drinking water

Toronto Star: “Shameful”: Manitoba First Nation waiting for Trudeau’s promise of clean drinking water

The Peterborough Examiner: Curve Lake First Nation takes water crisis to court

The Globe and Mail: First Nations communities pursue clean drinking water through the courts

CBC News: ‘Inertia and incompetence’: Manitoba First Nation launches proposed class action over water advisories

The Globe and Mail: Manitoba First Nation seeking class action over long-term boil water advisories

CBC News: ‘Please help us!’ Evacuation of elderly, latest in decades-long water crisis in Neskantaga First Nation

CTV News: Class action lawsuit launched over safe drinking water on First Nations

CBC News: ‘Chance to seek justice’ after First Nations’ water advisories lawsuit certified as class action: lawyer