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Council of Canadians marks 25 years of acting for social justice

Ottawa – Twenty five years ago tomorrow, a news release was issued announcing the formation of The Council of Canadians, which has since grown into Canada’s largest member-based social justice organization.

Over the years, the Council of Canadians has led the campaigns that defeated the Multilateral Agreement on Investment and the Security and Prosperity Partnership, successfully fought the mergers of Canada’s big banks, helped block the introduction of bovine growth hormone in Canada, won bottled water bans in over 60 communities and, most recently, helped to protect the Alliston Aquifer from contamination.

“Over the past 25 years, it’s become plain for all to see what economic globalization and the tyranny of unregulated markets has done to people and the planet,” says Council of Canadians national chairperson and co-founder Maude Barlow. “Our world is not for sale. To protect it from this unbridled corporate assault, we need a more balanced economy, based on local production, and the protection of land and water.”

Founding members of the Council included Maude Barlow, Mel Hurtig, Marion Dewar, Pierre Berton, Gerry Caplan, Stephen Clarkson, Sheila Copps, Tommy Douglas, Margaret Laurence, Farley Mowat, Peter C. Newman, David Suzuki, and Margaret Atwood.

The Council of Canadians is quoted or referenced in the media an average of 5 times a day somewhere in Canada or around the world. The Council of Canadians has over 70 chapters in communities across the country, with new ones becoming active every year. Working in coalition with other groups – workers, social and environmental justice groups, culture advocates, and indigenous peoples, the Council of Canadians continues to fight for a just economy and social security here in Canada and around the world.

In this anniversary year, the Council of Canadians is ramping up its campaigns for fair trade, water justice, safeguarding public health care, and climate justice, particularly in the lead up to the G8 and G20 Summits in June. In 2010, the organization will be directly involved in the upcoming major international climate justice summit in Bolivia, campaigning locally for a national water policy and globally for the international recognition of the right to water, and campaigning against the Canada-EU free trade agreement.

“Over the next 25 weeks, months and years, I know that the Council of Canadians will be front and centre in the growing movement for system change,” adds Barlow. The Council of Canadians will be holding its 25th anniversary Annual General Meeting in Ottawa on October 22-24.

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Celebrating 25 years of accomplishments

For 25 years the Council of Canadians has been active in communities across Canada and around the world fighting for social justice. We bring together tens of thousands of caring and concerned Canadians to give a voice to important issues. We work with grassroots activists, seniors, students, community groups, unions and other organizations to protect the public interest and to work towards progressive policies on fair trade, clean water, public health care and other issues of social and economic concern to Canadians. With concerned and active members in more than 70 communities across the country, our chapters help give a strong voice to local, regional and national issues.

Over the past 25 years together we have made a difference in communities across Canada by:

  • Blocking the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) which would have given corporations even greater powers to challenge laws that protect Canadian citizens and the environment.
  • Challenging the pro-corporate free trade agendas of both the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
  • Stopping the bank mergers – a victory that has recently been credited as one of the reasons Canada hasn’t been harder hit during the economic downturn
  • Forcing the federal government to withdraw its so-called “seniors’ benefit” which would have robbed seniors of millions of dollars in retirement income.
  • Stopping the introduction of Bovine Growth Hormone in cows which would have contaminated Canadian milk with a dangerous additive linked to cancer.
  • Defeating the Voluntary Water Accord that would have allowed provinces to export unlimited quantities of water and left all Canadian water open to export under NAFTA.
  • Stopping Monsanto from producing and selling genetically-engineered wheat in Canada.
  • Defeating the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP), a secretive agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico, making it too politically sensitive for governments to move forward.
  • Blocking Dump Site 41, a landfill plan in Simcoe County, Ontario that would have leached contaminants into the Alliston aquifer, home to what scientists call “the purest water in the world.”
  • Getting bottled water bans in more than 60 communities across Canada and raising awareness about the wasteful and energy-intensive practice of commodifying and selling water.
  • Stopping privatization initiatives of hospitals, water and wastewater services in communities across Canada.

These victories are just a snapshot of the Council’s work in Canada and around the world. Every day our members and chapter activists are in communities across Canada pushing for better protections for our energy and water resources, fighting health care privatization plans, and holding our governments to account for better and fairer trade deals.

Our work would not be possible without people who believe in citizen advocacy and working in the public interest. Members are the cornerstone of our organization and with their financial support we are able to put important issues in the spotlight.

Over the past 25 years we have built our credibility as a powerful force of positive change that will hold governments to account and work for the greater public interest.

Looking forward, we will continue to increase and diversify our membership and our ability to act for social justice here in Canada and around the world. We will fight to reclaim the commons – the shared areas of life including air, water, land, forests as well as the social commons of health care, education and social security – from the threat of privatization. We will continue to challenge governments for strong policies that serve the interests of people and communities instead of corporations. And we will encourage democracy and action, so everyone participates in shaping the future of our country.