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Centre Wellington chapter challenges Nestlé in Elora, Ontario

Public Forum

The public forum in Elora last night.

The Council of Canadians Centre Wellington chapter, as a member of SaveOurWater.ca, helped to organize a public forum last night in Elora against proposed Nestlé water takings.

CBC has reported, “Residents of a southern Ontario town are worried Nestlé Water Canada’s plan to pump up to 1.6 million litres of water per day from a nearby aquifer could leave them high and dry. Nestlé Waters Canada, a subsidiary of the transnational Nestlé company, has conditionally bought an existing well near Elora, Ont. — a small town on the Grand River located about 115 kilometres west of Toronto — that taps into a major aquifer, or underground layer of water. The company hopes to eventually pump water from the aquifer and sell it in the Canadian market, where some 2.4 billion litres of bottled water are sold each year, often at prices similar to gasoline.”

That article highlights, “The company’s plan to operate the well still needs approval from Ontario’s Ministry of Environment, but at a recent meeting Elora residents voiced their outrage and disbelief that the province might allow it.” That forum with about 300 people took place on Oct. 28, 2015 and was organized by the Centre Wellington chapter. The featured speakers were Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow, chapter activist Diane Ballantyne, our ally Mike Nagy from Wellington Water Watchers, and a representative from SaveOurWater.ca.

On last night’s event, SaveOurWater.ca says, “Thanks so much to all the people who came from near and far to support SaveOurWater.CA, Wellington Water Watchers and the water allies to STOP THE PERMIT. We were able to update everyone on the current status of the Pump Test Permit and how we can work together to say to ‪[Ontario premier] #‎KathleenWynne and ‪[environment minister] #‎GlenMurray that we do not want a permit approved here at ‪#‎7334MiddlebrookRD. We filled the legion with supporters and we are not going to stop there.”

The Council of Canadians has also encouraged its supporters to tell the Ontario government that Nestlé should not be granted the water-taking permit for pumping tests (nor for a longer-term water-taking permit) during the Ontario Environmental Registry public comment period that ended on Nov. 15, 2015.

In our submission, water campaigner Emma Lui highlighted, “The well sits on the traditional territory of Haudenosaunee, also known as Six Nations. Over 90 per cent of people in Six Nations of the Grand River, roughly over 11,000 people, do not have clean, running water. …The Ontario government is obligated to obtain free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous communities on any decision affecting water sources according to the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In August, the Haudenosaunee Development Institute sent a letter to Ministry of Environment and Climate Change calling for a meaningful engagement process.”

More than three months after the closing of the public comment period the province has yet to decide on Nestlé’s initial application to draw 300 US gallons per minute over 30 days of testing.

The Centre Wellington chapter was formed in June 2015 to oppose Nestlé’s plan.

The Council of Canadians has previously raised concerns about Nestlé’s water-taking business in Aberfoyle, where it has a permit to take up to 600 gallons of water per minute, and in Hillsburgh, where it can take 200 gallons of water per minute. Elora is about 42 kilometres from Aberfoyle, while Hillsburgh is about 51 kilometres from Aberfoyle. In 2008, the Council of Canadians Guelph chapter and Wellington Water Watchers campaigned against Nestlé and succeeded in at least reducing Nestlé’s requested permit (from 5 years to 2 years) and requiring the company to do extensive monitoring on the impact of their water takings. In 2013, the two groups, with legal representation from Ecojustice, successfully fought against an Ontario Ministry of Environment decision to remove conditions that made it mandatory for Nestlé to reduce its water takings in Hillsburgh during droughts.