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7 chapters join “rights to fight with” water webinar

The Council of Canadians South Shore, Quill Plains (Wynyard), South Niagara, Sudbury, Edmonton, Brandon, and PEI chapters joined a webinar this afternoon on “Rights to Fight with – Stopping Water Privatization at the Source” with Blue Planet Project director Meera Karunananthan.

Karunananthan began by noting that human rights instruments can serve as a tool for profound, even revolutionary change.

She cited the example of how the Kalahari people in Botswana argued the United Nations recognition of the human right to water and sanitation in a precedent setting case before the Botswana Court of Appeal in 2011. After diamonds were discovered in the late 1980s, the Kalahari were cleared from their lands. Although they were allowed to return in 2006, they were denied access to a borehole, their main source of water. The Botswana Court of Appeal upheld their right to water by quashing a 2010 decision that denied them access to a borehole on their ancestral lands.

Karunananthan then defined the terms “use value” (“the utility of a thing makes it a use value”) and “exchange value” (the process in which things are commodified, in which a dollar figure is put to it). She further explained that capitalism imposes an exchange value on aspects of life, including a human need like water. She highlighted that when the human right to water says that water needs to be “available” to all, that right puts restrictions and barriers in the way of neo-liberal governments and corporations that want to impose an “exchange value” on water.

She also noted that the Blue Planet Project has produced a new Water Justice Toolkit “as a strategy to consolidate our knowledge base and support local campaigns against the corporate takeover of water.” To read it, please click here.

During the question and answer session, the Edmonton chapter raised the issue of corporatization given Epcor, a for-profit municipal corporate utility that operates as a private corporate entity, is currently seeking to take over the drainage services currently publicly-owned and operated by the City of Edmonton.

And the South Niagara chapter raised the situation in which a Chinese investment firm is seeking to destroy 13 acres of provincially-significant wetlands to accommodate a $1 billion ‘Paradise’ development project that includes a hotel, entertainment facilities, apartments, and a private school.

Karunananthan emphasized that the right to water can be used as a tool within grassroots resistance strategies to counter these incursions. She said that the Epcor corporatization model is a form of “exchange value” and could be opposed through our blue communities project campaign. And she highlighted that, as in the case of the Thundering Waters Forest issue in South Niagara, that the definition of the right to water can and should be expanded to include the right to watershed protection.

The webinar was recorded and will soon be made available.

The webinar was organized and facilitated by Council of Canadians organizers Diane Connors and Robin Tress.

For more on the Blue Planet Project, please click here.