The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Dylan Penner, Media Officer
(613) 233-4487, ext. 249

Time for Harper to Stop Trading Away Our Water, Says Council of Canadians


The Council of Canadians is blasting the Federal government for suppressing an Environment Canada report that warns of increased water shortages across the country. The Council of Canadians is calling on the Government of Canada to implement a comprehensive National Water Policy, as there is currently no national strategy to address urgent water issues and no federal leadership to conserve and protect our water. The Federal Water Policy is over 20 years old and badly outdated.

"There is a growing freshwater crisis in Canada, with causes including contamination, shortages and pressure to export water to the United States through pipelines and diversions," says Meera Karunananthan, national water campaigned for the Council of Canadians. "The suppressed report from Environment Canada demonstrates that the Harper government has known about the water crisis facing Canada and has suppressed the information in a startling lack of transparency and accountability. Instead of taking leadership to solve the water crisis, the Prime Minister has made it worse by pursuing a comprehensive strategy of undermining water protection in Canada."

"This Environment Canada report is further proof that successive Canadian governments haven't taken water seriously," says Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, and author of Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water. "The Harper government has bought the myth of limitless abundance, which this report on looming water scarcity in Canada indicates is clearly not true. He should release this report to the public in full immediately."

"The Harper government has consistently chosen corporate profits over the protection of water," adds Karunananthan. To address this misplaced priority, the Council of Canadians is calling on the federal government to adopt an immediate national water strategy in Canada that includes:

- Renegotiation of NAFTA to exclude water, ensuring Canadian water access.

- Abandon the SPP (Security and Prosperity Partnership), which aims at a fivefold increase of tar sands production, despite the already serious drain on local water supplies and related water contamination.

- An important step would be to revoke water licenses of tar sands companies.

- Stop TILMA (Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement), which puts water protection at risk by allowing corporations to sue local and provincial governments for protecting water, much like Chapter 11 in NAFTA.

- Call for the exclusion of water diversion in the Great Lakes Compact (GLC): The Great Lakes hold 20 per cent of the world's fresh water, providing drinking water to 45 million people. The GLC, currently being rushed through US congress, would allow corporations to start draining the Great Lakes, provided it is not done using containers that hold 21 litres (with no limit on the number of containers). The bottled water exception must be removed from the GLC and replaced with recognition of the water as a public trust doctrine.

- Reign in the bottled water industry by encouraging bans on bottled water wherever possible, including at the national level with enforced legislation to stop bottled water companies from extracting groundwater.

- Support water as a human right: The Canadian government is the only one in the world to oppose water being recognized as a human right at the United Nations

- Halt the use of lakes for the dumping of mining waste: At least a dozen lakes across Canada have been slated for destruction with mining waste.

"We have no idea how much virtual water we are exporting. A national analysis of this embedded water is long overdue." A recent study of virtual water consumption in the UK highlights the pressing need for such an assessment in Canada, notes Barlow.

Prime Minister Harper has remained silent on the water crisis. In the lead up to last year's SPP summit in Montebello, Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre said "bulk water exports are not on the agenda." Poilievre, is apparently the MP tasked with denying the government is interested in bulk water exports. Yet, ironically, he is also responsible for redrafting Canada's whistleblower protection laws, while the government has been suppressing the Environment Canada report that takes the government to task for ignoring the water crisis.

Founded in 1985, the Council of Canadians is Canada's leading social action organization, mobilizing a network of 60 chapters across the country.

Office: (613) 233-4487, ext. 249