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From Burnaby to Bern: Municipalities are Protecting the Water Commons

When the Council of Canadians and CUPE first created the Blue Communities Project we weren’t sure how to convince cash-strapped municipalities to come on board. How would we get local government who faced federal and provincial restrictions forcing them to consider privatization when seeking funding for infrastructure projects to stand up to private for-profit water and sanitation services or ban bottled water in public facilities. In 2011, when Burnaby became the first Blue Community, we were thrilled. Robyn HamlynThis led to Victoria becoming Blue and the Union of BC municipalities passing a resolution encouraging others throughout the province to follow. With the support of community activists like Kingston’s 14-year-old Robyn Hamlyn, there have been a number of Blue Communities throughout Ontario and British Columbia.

This month the Blue Communities Project celebrated two watershed moments with our first Blue Communities in the province of Quebec and in Europe.

On September 18, the City of Bern was designated the first Blue Community outside of Canada. In addition to promoting public water and water as a human right, Bern passed a resolution promoting solidarity and support for communities efforts to provide safe drinking water in other countries. The city is working to develop a partnership with a community in Northern Vietnam. See the press release by CUPE and the Council of Canadians.

The Blue Communities Project was launched in 2010 by the Council of Canadians and Canadian Union of Public Employees as a strategy to support municipalities who were fighting to protect the water commons. In the last few years 14 Canadian municipalities have signed up to become Blue Communities by passing resolutions to promote public not-for-profit water and sanitation services, recognize water as a human right to water and ban bottled water from municipal facilities.

In addition to the City of Bern joining the project, the University of Bern has also passed resolutions to ensure access to public water and dedicate resources to research on the right to water. Certificates were delivered to the City and University at a ceremony in Bern by Blue Planet Project founder, Maude Barlow. To read Maude Barlow’s statement, go here.

To see the statement by the City of Bern, go here.

European labour and social justice groups are now supporting the initiative and calling for more Blue Communities in Europe. See the press release by European groups.

Earlier this month,  the town of Amqui in Eastern Quebec became the first Blue Community. According to the City Council, Amqui, like most other Canadian municipalities provides drinking water that meets the highest international standards. Among other initiatives, the municipality will build new fountains and ban the sale of bottled water in public facilities owned by the city and at all public events hosted by the municipality. The Council of Canadians is working in collaboration with Eau Secours and CUPE in Quebec to ensure that other municipalities in the province soon follow suit. Read the press release by Eau Secours.

Other Blue Communities in Canada so far include Thorold, Welland, Comox, Cumberland, Nanaimo, St. Catharines, Mississippi Mills, Niagara Falls, North Vancouver, Ajax, Tiny Township, Victoria, Burnaby, and Amqui.

Read more about Blue Communities in Canada at canadians.org/bluecommunities.