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Challenging Canada at the UN on Earth Day

The Blue Planet Project is marking Earth week by raising Canada’s violations of the human right to water with member states at the United Nations in Geneva in advance of the country’s universal periodic review (UPR). The UPR was established in 2006 to enable an international review of the human rights records of member states.

Canada’s UPR takes place on April 26. Joining us in Geneva are representatives of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) and the Canadian Union of Public Employees. Together, we are highlighting the range and complexities of water injustices in Canada.

The human right to water is not the be all and end all of the Harper government’s dismal human rights record, but it is a wedge issue that highlights the injustices of Canadian government’s political orientation in a number of key areas including the environment, indigenous rights, public services and foreign policy.

The First Nations drinking water crisis highlights the depth of the anti-colonial struggle. As the MKO underscores, there are 1,000 First Nations homes without basic water and sanitation infrastructure in Northern Manitoba alone. Yet the region, where First Nations communities are denied the right to the basic elements of human dignity, is rich in minerals and natural resources. The MKO argues that indigenous populations do not benefit from the $3 billion a year made from the sale of natural resources in the territories of the 30 First Nations communities it represents.

Outside of indigenous communities, the Canadian Union of Public Employees is challenging Canada for undermining municipal public water and sanitation systems that have provide excellent drinking water and sanitation services for decades. As part of its fervent ideological assault on public services, Canada is now forcing municipalities to privatize if they want access to federal funding. Despite evidence that private water has led to rate hikes and a drop in quality and accountability of services around the world, the federal government is leaving municipalities with little choice in the matter – a blatant violation of the right to public participation in decision-making on water.

The Blue Planet Project is also raising the appalling manner in which the Conservative government is dismantling environmental protections and attacking civil society checks and balances in order to push through massive extractive projects that have been harmful to people and the environment in Canada and abroad.

Now that the United Nations has formally recognized water and sanitation as a human right, we are urging member states to defend this right by speaking out against Canada’s shameful record.

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