On Tuesday, November 19, Kingston City Council reaffirmed its commitment as a Blue Community. Alongside Maude Barlow, Honorary Chairperson of the Council of Canadians, and Robyn Hamlyn, a young water activist, Kingston’s Mayor Bryan Paterson committed to protecting the human right to water, phasing out bottled water in municipal facilities, and promoting publicly owned and operated water and wastewater services.
Through the amazing advocacy from young activist Robyn Hamlyn and the community, Kingston passed separate resolutions as a Blue Community back in 2011. At this ceremony, we are excited to see the city council renewing its commitment to protecting our water and keeping water services in public hands.
Following the ceremony, nearly 100 Kingston community members gathered at the new Kingston Frontenac Public Library for the launch of Barlow’s book, Whose Water is it, Anyway: Taking Water Protection into Public Hands. It was a beautiful evening of inspiring speeches and lively discussion about the future of our water.
The evening opened with beautiful words of welcome from Laurel Claus-Johnson, a Katarokwi grandmother and community leader, reminding us of our relationship with the land and water that powers our activism. After Laurel, we heard from Robyn Hamlyn, a third-year student of Wildlife Conservation at the University of Guelph who started her water activism at the age of 12. After learning about the world water crisis when she was 12, Robyn wrote the Mayor of Kingston at the time, presented in front of city council, and was instrumental in making Kingston a Blue Community. Robyn went on to write and present to many other municipalities across Ontario, which led to eight of them earning a Blue Community designation.
The chair of the Council of Canadians, John Cartwright, addressed the room and reminded us of the critical opportunity to build the progressive movement that defends our human right to water and public services, and works towards a positive vision of the future where community is at the centre. He also reminded us to thank the workers whose jobs are to bring safe, clean drinking water to the community. John spoke enthusiastically of the opportunity to make change right there in the community. Interested community members were invited to a founding meeting of a Council of Canadians Kingston Chapter. Community-based chapters work on Council of Canadians campaigns and progressive issues locally, making a difference across the country.
Maude Barlow then took the stage, telling the story of the 10 years of the Blue Communities Project. Not only has the project grown beyond its Canadian borders, it has also become a tool for communities anywhere to step up and protect their water. Ordinary citizens everywhere are learning about the threats to our water, defending water as a human right, and fighting back against privatization. And it’s not just cities getting involved – universities, high schools, churches and faith-based groups are also taking part, In closing, Maude reminded us of the beautiful Carl Sagan quote: “Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something. You are by accident of fate alive at an absolutely critical moment in the history of our planet.”
The Council of Canadians would like to thank everyone for joining us at the Kingston book launch, and all other book events along the tour. We would like to acknowledge the incredible work of Council of Canadians chapters, supporters, and water activists for their help along the tour, and for their fearless advocacy for our water.