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Blue Summit demands government action on water

The Blue Summit, a water conference that took place November 27-29, concluded with a declaration demanding a national water policy that recognizes water as a human right and a public trust. The full declaration can be read here.

Over 300 people from various sectors including environmental organizations, the student movement, labour organizations, healthcare professionals, water workers and social justice groups participated in the summit on water issues organized by the Council of Canadians and CUPE. Workshops and panels dealt with pressing Canadian and international water issues such as the impacts of the Canada-EU trade deal, Alberta’s emerging water markets, industrial pollution, the privatization of water services and climate change to name a few.

A rally held on Parliament Hill demanded that water to be a central element in climate talks taking place in Copenhagen in a little over a week. “Climate justice is water justice” read a banner that would be carried to Copenhagen by Council of Canadians Chair Maude Barlow and CUPE Secretary Treasure Claude Généreux. The banner has been signed by hundreds of water activists gathered at the summit and sends the message that any policy formulation that comes out of COP15 must include a plan to address the global water crisis and the lack of access to safe drinking water.

The Summit marked the 10-year anniversary of the Water Watch coalition — a network of community-based water advocacy committees aimed at protecting public water resources and services. As such, the summit was aimed not only at discussing problems facing Canada’s water, but at celebrating accomplishments of the water justice movement. At the launch party, Council chair Maude Barlow and CUPE President Paul Moist listed a series of victories achieved in the last 10 years including battles against privatization, bottled water bans in public spaces and the recent decision not to build the site 41 landfill atop the Alliston aquifer in Simcoe County.

Speakers included Al Hassan Adam, coordinator of the African water network, Irving Leblanc of the Assembly of First Nations, Shannon Biggs from the San Francisco based NGO Global Exchange, Darlene Sanderson of the Indigenous Environmental Network, trade lawyer Steven Shrybman, Ralph Pentland of the Canadian Water Issues Council and many others.