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Council of Canadians report critiques BC’s Water Sustainability Act

Lui interviewed by reporter Dan Fumano in the The Province newsroom

The Council of Canadians has released a new report on British Columbia’s Water Sustainability Act.

The Province (which has a daily circulation of 144,537 readers), reports, “A new report, to be released Thursday by the Council of Canadians, says the Water Sustainability Act (WSA) ‘delivers some gains and positive steps forward, but falls short of what is needed to truly protect water in B.C.’ Emma Lui, the report’s primary author, said: ‘We’ve been raising these concerns for a long time, and we saw in the public consultation process, other people in B.C. were raising these concerns as well.’ Lui is the water campaigner for the Council of Canadians, an Ottawa-based non-profit that describes itself as ‘Canada’s leading social action organization’.”

The article adds, “One of the council’s key concerns with B.C.’s new act, Lui said, is around the issue of prioritizing water rights. The WSA preserves the system of ‘First in time, first in right’ (FITFIR), a way of prioritizing water rights based on the date of a water licence. …Lui’s report described FITFIR as ‘an antiquated system’, and a ‘remnant of the Gold Rush’. She has advocated for prioritizing water rights to put the needs of communities ahead of private interests, corporations and industries.”

To watch a 2-minute interview with Lui in The Province newsroom, please click here.

Water RushIn the interview, Lui explains that recognizing water as a public trust “means water needs to be held in trust by the government so the government has a duty to protect water for communities and not allow it to be abused or polluted by private companies or for private interests.” She also highlights, “The province talks about Crown ownership of water which is really contradictory to the idea of Indigenous title and water rights. And also when I mentioned water as a human right, prioritizing water for communities and not for private interests, we really saw people calling for that and that’s still missing in the Act.”

Lui’s report concludes, “The Council of Canadians opposes the WSA in its current form. B.C must get rid of the outdated FITFIR system and limit water permits to one to five years. The act must be changed to recognize and incorporate Indigenous title and water rights and embed the principles of water as a human right, commons and public trust.”

As Lui says in the interview, “We need to see a significant change in how water is governed.”

To express your support for six key changes we are demanding in the Act, please send BC environment minister Mary Polak a message via this action alert.

To read the 20-page Water Rush: Why B.C.’s Water Sustainability Act fails to protect water, please click here.

Further reading
Barlow asks Premier Clark to rethink BC’s Water Sustainability Act (Feb. 12, 2015)
BC Water Act not likely to limit fracking in the province (Dec. 30, 2013)
Kelowna chapter critique of Water Sustainability Act prompts response from BC’s environment minister (Feb. 24, 2015)