Canada Declares Support for Human Right to Water: Now is the time for action, says Council of Canadians

Media Release
May 30, 2012

After years of national and international pressure, the Canadian government finally signalled that it will recognize the human right to water and sanitation. The Council of Canadians, Canada’s largest social justice advocacy organization, has campaigned for more than a decade to ensure the human right to water, and to convince past and present Conservative and Liberal governments to accept Canada’s international legal obligations.

As recently as last month, Canada was isolated in the Rio+20 negotiations as the only country to publicly claim there is no legal basis for the right and call for its deletion. This position was untenable, however, almost two years after the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution recognizing the right (GA Res. A/64/292) followed by three subsequent confirming Human Rights Council resolutions.

Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and a former UN Senior Advisor on Water to the President of the General Assembly, says “It took unprecedented pressure to get this government to change its position, and the shift is a good thing, but words are not enough. We need actions, and the government’s actions directly contradict respect for the human right to water.”

According to Barlow, the recent omnibus Bill C-38 is evidence that this government does not respect the human right to water: “The changes to the Fisheries Act, Parks Canada, environmental assessments, and decades-long programs of environmental monitoring, as well as many more water-related cuts contained in the over 400 pages of C-38, aren’t compatible with the right to water.”

The Council of Canadians is calling on the government to reconsider those initiatives in Bill C-38 with devastating impacts on nature and communities across Canada, and put in place a plan to implement the human right to water. The Council will be presenting at the federal Finance Committee Hearings on Bill C-38 tomorrow at 5pm.

The Council has consistently asked Canadian governments to show their commitment to water by implementing a national water act including a domestic plan of action on the human right to water. The Council of Canadians looks forward to the government providing  a clear plan of what it intends to do to meet its international and domestic obligations with regard to the human right to water and sanitation.

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