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Guelph chapter reports on the ‘Water Is Life’ conference in Flint

Members of the Council of Canadians Guelph chapter at the recent water forum in Flint, Michigan. Photo by Wellington Water Watchers.

The following report is by Guelph chapter activist Lin Grist:

Guelph chapter of the CoC sent delegates to the FLINT WATER FORUM, this past weekend. Emma Lui, our water campaigner did a wonderful job of collaborating and organizing with our neighbours to the south to make this event happen.

Flint Michigan is a city in crisis, tap water is undrinkable because it is full of lead – and as Mama Lila of the Detroit People’s Water board said “you can go to the store and buy lead free paint, you can go to the gas station and buy lead free gasoline – but we can’t turn on the faucet and drink the water because it’s full of lead.”

Two statements in the wonderful workshops that keep resonating with me are:

Maude Barlow:  “If we keep on doing what we are doing the Great Lakes will be dry in 80 years”

The great lakes are 20% of global fresh water and 8% of global drinking water.”

Mama Lila:  “In 5 years’ time 35% of Americans will not have access to clean water. That’s over 100 million people – they won’t have access because they will not be able to afford it, as privatization of water takes over the in the US.”

Now for the good news: people in Michigan are organizing to protect water as a commons – at  a grassroots level, among towns and municipalities; FLOW is working on the legal aspects across the state to protect water and a national organization Corporate Accountability International has joined the team.

Nestlé is busy  privatizing water in Michigan along with corporate water giants Bectel and Veolia – the modus operandi of Nestlé in Michigan and other states is very similar to how they are operating in Wellington County, Ontario.   

The forum was a wonderful opportunity to both learn and connect with our neighbours to the south; their work is both inspirational and a wake-up call for us in Canada. There are legal protections in place in many states and in the American Constitution, but the politicians have been playing fast and loose with both. We have protections here in Canada too and we need to hold our politicians feet to the fire.

Flint was, for me, an early warning of why we need to be both vigilant and to continue to work, in any way we can, to ensure that WATER IS A HUMAN RIGHT.