Barlow launches Boycott Nestle campaign in Guelph

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow spoke to a packed hall last night in Guelph about her new book Boiling Point: Government Neglect, Corporate Abuse, and Canada’s Water Crisis and announced a new boycott campaign to stop Nestle profiting from water.

Toronto-based Council of Canadians organizer Mark Calzavara tells us, "We had 350 people come out to our Boiling Point event in Guelph tonight. Maude announced the start of our Boycott Nestle campaign and the crowd roared in approval. When people hear about Nestle continuing to bottle water during a severe drought - they get angry."

In her book, Barlow writes: "Nestle is the biggest bottled water operator in Canada, with major plants in Ontario and B.C. Since 2008, it has been taking 3.6 million litres a day from two wells for its bottled water plant in Aberfoyle, Ontario, making a profit at that location alone of over $2 million a year. In 2013, Nestle sought and was granted an extension in Hillsburgh well permit to 1.1 million litres a day for five years, but the province placed a condition that in times of drought, the company would have to reduce its water taking. Nestle resisted this restriction and appealed to the environment ministry. The non-profit legal team at Ecojustice took the case to court on behalf of the Council of Canadians and Wellington Water Watchers and won, maintaining some key principles affirming that water in Ontario is a public trust."

She also notes, "Nestle is currently seeking approval to take over another well at Middlebrook, near Elora, and extract 1.6 million litres of groundwater a day to be trucked to its plant, a move fiercely opposed by local residents and a new group called Save Our Water that formed to fight the company."

Barlow then highlights, "The area has experienced several droughts in recent years and the Grand River Watershed, where the wells and plant are located, is a fragile ecosystem that feeds into Lake Erie. Allowing a transnational corporation to continue to mine this water is a travesty, especially given that most local people can get clean, safe and affordable water from their taps."

The Boycott Nestle pledge that Barlow launched last night says, "Groundwater resources will not be sufficient for our future needs due to drought, climate change and over-extraction. Wasting our limited groundwater on frivolous and consumptive uses such as bottled water is madness. We must not allow groundwater reserves to be depleted for corporate profit. It is time to stop Nestlé from profiting from water."

That pledge - both available in paper and online - asks people to commit not to buy bottled water and not to buy Nestle products.

More than 130 people signed that pledge as they left our public forum last night.

The Council of Canadians has also been supporting a local campaign in Guelph to get their City Council to to support a motion from Councillor James Gordon to have the City officially oppose the renewal of Nestle's provincial permit to draw water for its bottled water operations in Aberfoyle. Our action alert calling on residents to support a notice of this motion on September 12 quickly generated 560 e-mails to City Council.

Our Guelph chapter is now helping to mobilize for a September 26 City Council meeting where Councillor Gordon's motion will be debated for the first time. There will be a rally at 5 pm outside City Hall in support of the motion, and then people will be making their way inside Council Chambers to speak to the motion even though Mayor Cam Guthrie, who opposes the motion, has stated that the public will not be allowed to speak. If the motion passes on September 26, then at a subsequent meeting on October 3, it will go to a final vote at City Council on October 24.

Barlow will also bring our Boycott Nestle campaign to a public forum in Chilliwack on November 21.

In Boiling Point, Barlow writes, "Nestle's other major plant is in Hope, B.C., a small community located in the heart of the Fraser Valley. The company takes about 265 million litres of water a year from this site and has done so for years, although verifying past takings is difficult because, until 2016, there was not only no charge for groundwater takings, there was no reporting requirement. In a February 2016 report called Water Rush, Council of Canadians water campaigner Emma Lui noted that the District of Hope experienced Level 4 drought conditions (extremely dry) during the summer of 2015. Outrage about the Hope site has been growing for years but exploded during the drought [as Nestle took hundreds of millions of litres of groundwater while B.C. residents were asked to conserve water]."

For more on our Stop Nestle Profiting from Water campaign, please see http://canadians.org/nestle

Further reading
Barlow launches 'Boiling Point' in Ottawa (September 20)
"Boiling Point" book launch draws a crowd in Kingston (September 22)