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VIEW: ‘We must all be stewards of water’, say Barlow and Karunananthan

Today’s Ottawa Citizen (with 134,645 readers) includes an op-ed by Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow and national water campaigner Meera Karunananthan. Their op-ed states, “A decisive victory has been won for water in Simcoe County, in a struggle that had been brewing for more than 20 years. Dump Site 41, the landfill that was to be built atop the Alliston aquifer this fall, points to major shortcomings in water governance at all levels of government in Canada. …This is a moment to reflect on water governance in Canada. As we deal with increasing shortages of clean water, it is vital that water resources be managed according to five key principles.”

Those principles are:

1. ”Water is a human right: Water is fundamental to all life and access to safe drinking water and sanitation must be enshrined at all levels of government. …Unfortunately, the failure to recognize water as a human right in Canada leaves communities with little recourse when their access to clean drinking water is threatened.”

2. “Indigenous rights must be honoured: The Crown has a fiduciary duty to consult indigenous communities.”

3. “Water is a public trust: Under common law, a tradition followed in all provinces and territories except Quebec, water is recognized as a public trust. It belongs collectively to all and governments must manage water in the public interest.”

4. “Public participation: Managing water as a public resource requires governments to facilitate public participation and provide access to information with regards to community water resources and services.”

5. “The precautionary principle: The precautionary principle states the burden of proof falls on those proposing an activity that could potentially harm the environment or the public.”

Their op-ed concludes, “Thankfully, Simcoe County decided there is no water to waste. Indeed, there is a growing consensus that Canada does not have the abundant supplies of water it was once thought to possess. Unless these five principles are respected at all levels of government and embraced in a national water policy, we are likely to see more battles like the one against Site 41 in Simcoe County unfold across the country.”

The full op-ed can be read at http://canadians.org/media/council/2009/10-Sept-09.html.