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VIEW: No right to water in Canada, says Christensen

Randy Christensen

Randy Christensen

Ecojustice lawyer and water policy specialist Randy Christensen writes in the Vancouver Observer, “Last year I co-authored Seeking Water Justice with the Forum for Leadership on Water. The report reveals a two tiered system of drinking water management where urban centres benefit from better standards, technology and personnel while rural and First Nations communities remain at risk due to inadequate infrastructure, patchwork provincial laws, and a lack of binding drinking water standards from the federal government. Despite all of the problems in Canada – or perhaps because of it – Canada has taken a position against legal recognition of the human right to water.”

“In March 2008, Canada played a pivotal role in the defeat of a UN Human Rights Council resolution that would have recognized access to water as a human right, and would have established an international body with a mandate to monitor States’ compliance with this right. International commentators, including the then UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, noted that Canada’s vigorous efforts to avert international recognition for the human right to water were uncharacteristic of its traditional role as a ‘peacemaker’ and ‘consensus-builder’ in international affairs.”

“As of July of last year (and with a subsequent Human Rights Council decision in the fall), the Right to Water is now international law. Canada, no longer able to block recognition of the right, abstained from the vote in the UN’s General Assembly.”

“Now that the Right to Water has been legally recognized, it’s worth considering what it means. The measure of a country’s compliance with the Right to Water will be in relation to the most vulnerable and whether they have universal access to clean drinking water. Often, these people are the most difficult to reach, but this cannot be a justification for neglecting them. On the contrary, establishing water access as a human right is specifically for the purpose of ensuring that the hard work gets done and everyone is protected. As of right now though, Canada (has) a lot of work to do to ensure the Right to Water.”

Christensen’s commentary can be read at http://www.vancouverobserver.com/blogs/water/2011/03/10/no-right-water-canada.