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Manitoba may legislate the right to water before April 2016

SelingerThe NDP government of Premier Greg Selinger may have just committed to legislating the right to water in Manitoba.

In today’s Speech from the Throne, his government stated, “Manitoba is leading the country as the first province to support David Suzukiʼs Blue Dot Declaration. We will protect our lakes and parks for generations to come and introduce legislation that guarantees every Manitoban the right to enjoy a healthy environment.”

The right to a healthy environment explicitly includes the right to water.

As noted on the Blue Dot website, “Across the country, Canadians believe in our inherent right to a healthy environment – clean water, fresh air, healthy food and a say in decisions that affect us. This growing movement of Canadians calls upon their local communities to pass municipal declarations respecting people’s right to live in a healthy environment.”

On the right to clean water, David Suzuki and Michael Dan have written, “Many communities, particularly northern and Aboriginal, suffer from poor access to healthy and affordable food, clean water, proper housing and other necessary infrastructure. An ironic example of this disparity is at Shoal Lake, about two hours east of Winnipeg. There, two First Nations, Shoal Lake 39 and 40, are next to the City of Winnipeg’s main drinking-water supply, but Shoal Lake 40 has been on a boil-water advisory for decades. …[This] is a national shame and must be resolved immediately. It’s yet another reason why the right to a healthy environment needs to be recognized by all levels of government in Canada — and ultimately, in our Constitution.”

The Georgia Straight has also reported, “[Suzuki points] out that if the Constitution recognized Canadians’ right to clean water, government rules around logging in watersheds would be subject to judicial review. He also said that Canada has more fresh water per capita than any other country in the world yet there are more than 1,000 boil-water alerts sent out every day.”

The Blue Dot website adds, “When seven out of 10 provinces representing more than 50 per cent of the Canadian population have recognized our right to a healthy environment we turn toward the ultimate goal: amending the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Recognition in the Charter is the final step in protecting the right to clean air, fresh water and healthy food for all Canadians.”

It would appear that Manitoba might be the first of the seven provinces needed to recognize the right to a healthy environment.

Premier Selinger first made this pledge last month. At that time, he stated, “When you put legislation like that in place, it’s like human rights legislation. It becomes a backdrop to everything you do.” The Canadian Press has reported, “Selinger said he will introduce the bill in the legislature before the provincial election set for April 19, but it is not clear whether it will be passed into law by then.”

We hope it will be.

Further reading
Hamilton chapter supported successful campaign for City of Hamilton to ratify Blue Dot declaration (Feb. 26, 2015)
Sudbury chapter supports Blue Dot campaign in an effort to protect Ramsey Lake (June 23, 2015)

Photo: Will Premier Selinger legislate the right to water in Manitoba?