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NEWS: Ignatieff fails to recognize the right to water

Michael Ignatieff

In Winnipeg today, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff failed to support the need to recognize the right to water in Canada. The Vancouver Sun reports, “While the Liberal leader did not directly address a question about whether Canada should support a United Nations effort to declare access to water a basic human right, he acknowledged that Canada has some international responsibilities.” This is unacceptable.

Why would Ignatieff not answer the question directly when:

– On July 28, 2010, the right to water and sanitation was recognized by the United Nations General Assembly, and on October 1, 2010 the UN Human Rights Council affirmed that the right to water and sanitation is contained in existing human rights treaties and is therefore legally binding and equal to all other human rights;

– An Environics Research poll commissioned by the Council of Canadians – and released this World Water Day – indicated that 73 per cent of Canadians want the Harper government to recognize the human right to clean and safe water and sanitation;

– At their May 2009 convention in Vancouver, the Liberals passed a resolution stating they would, ‘enshrine water as a human right to ensure that all people living in Canada are legally entitled to safe, clean, drinking water and water for sanitation in sufficient quantities’;

– Organizations including the Council of Canadians, Amnesty International and the Assembly of First Nations have called for the parties to speak to and recognize the right to water and sanitation this federal election.

Additionally, the Winnipeg Free Press reports, “A Liberal government would invest $225 million over the next two years on a Canadian freshwater strategy. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff made the announcement at a news conference this morning in Winnipeg. He said the strategy would focus on risk prevention and flood mitigation. It would also deal with such issues as groundwater contamination, water consumption and involve supports to clean up Lake Winnipeg.”

The Toronto Star adds, “The Liberal plan also calls for restoring degraded and threatened areas across the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence regions. Ignatieff said this includes removing invasive species and improving water quality. He said he is ‘very struck’ how strongly Canadians are opposed to the bulk export of fresh water from Canada but adds Canada can do its part to help other countries maximize their water supplies. ‘There is very substantial objection to bulk water exports. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have obligations to countries that are water short. I would like our country to be the world export on fresh water and work with developing nations around the world to harness their fresh water resources everywhere. It would be great for Canada to be the water country,’ he said.”

The Vancouver Sun adds, “Ignatieff (today) touted a national freshwater strategy that would also close the door to bulk water exports. …Ignatieff said a new strategy – part of a two-year, $225-million plan – would consist of working with scientists and local governments to analyze all aspects of the problem, including the impact of climate change. …He said he’d like the country to be a global leader as an international freshwater export that helps developing nations harness their own resources. And he indicated this would not lead to Canadian bulk water exports.”

The news reports do not indicate whether Ignatieff would be willing to call for the renegotiation of NAFTA to remove water as required to effectively ban the threat of water exports. Given that omission, we presume he is not willing to renegotiate or abrogate NAFTA.

And although both articles quote Ignatieff saying he would like Canada to be an international freshwater “export”, he presumably means “expert” given the phrasing of the quote.