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Analysis of Canadian water politics by the Council of Canadians' national water campaigner.
"We are determined to protect this land for future generations, and in the process do our bit to shut down the toxic fossil fuel infrastructure that threatens all forms of living life on this planet." - Unist'ot'en camp
I recently returned from the sixth annual Unist'ot'en Camp where a diversity of people came together to participate in and conduct workshops, continue the construction of the Healing Centre, and discuss how we could lend solidarity to the Unist'ot'en people fighting numerous oil and gas pipelines on their territory.
In B.C., public and media attention has been focused on water pricing and Nestlé's water takings. In February, the B.C. government released water rates which ranged from $0.02 to $2.25. The rates, which take effect January 1, 2016 when the new Water Sustainability Act comes into force, are the lowest across any of the provinces in Canada.
Over 400 kilometres into his run to Ottawa, Caribou Legs spent the last few days in Chase, B.C. In a video posted on his Facebook page, Caribou Legs crosses the bridge where the Shuswap Lake forms into the South Thompson River and comments on the "beautiful water, a lot of recreation" and how the "town thrives around this water." In a Facebook posting, he talks about an elders dinner and Rattle making class at Adams Lake Resource centre he attended last week. He said, "Awesome groups! I heard a story about the "water people" of the Shuswap nation in the old days.
Ultra-marathoner Caribou Legs is now in Revelstoke, B.C. On his Facebook page, Caribou Legs posted a video of a train shipment of coal that he saw just after Sicamous -- 72 kilometres from Revelstoke -- on the bridge overpass. The Council of Canadians has highlighted that British Columbia has roughly 10 active coal mines and many more in development.
CBC has reported, "The Coal Association of Canada says 90 per cent of Canada's coal deposits are located in western provinces, and about 80 per cent of Canada's coal exports are shipped through B.C."
Opposition to fracking has been brewing in the Yukon for a number of years. The Yukon Party government's recent decision to allow fracking in the Liard basin in southeast Yukon has reignited resolve in the territory to protect the lakes and rivers from fracking, a practice that was recently found to contaminate drinking water in Pennsylvania.
Members of the Liard First Nation are concerned that the Yukon Party are making deals behind closed doors with their Chief and Council which will have adverse affects on community's drinking water and health as well as the wildlife which they rely on for food.
Yet the budget has been criticized as a "vote-buying" budget that dips into the contingency fund to just barely balance the books. The budget fails to adequately allocate funding needed for environmental protections, First Nations and sustainable jobs.
"Anyone who can throw a hatchet and sue you is a force to be reckoned with." This is how author and environmental activist Bill McKibben describes Caleb Behn, a young Indigenous lawyer from northern British Columbia and subject of the upcoming fracking documentary, Fractured Land.
Fractured Land tells the story of Caleb Behn, who is Eh Cho Dene and Dunne-Za from Treaty 8 Territory, and his struggle in defending his territory from fracking operations.
In May 2015, the city of Detroit will start shutting off water to 28,000 people.
Last summer, the Blue Planet Project worked with the Detroit People's Water Board and Food and Water Watch to sound the alarm on the city's plans to shut off water to thousands of Detroiters. The Detroit Water and Sewerage Board's shameful strategy of punishing poor people who could not afford exorbitant water rates by shutting off their water garnered media attention throughout the U.S. and around the world. UN experts declared it to be a violation of the fundamental rights of people living in Detroit. As a result of public pressure within the city and solidarity from people around the world, the water shut-offs stopped temporarily and the city promised plans to address the needs of the poor.
On Bottled Water Free Day, communities are promoting public water services and calling for governments to implement the human right to water. Since 2010, the Coalition for Bottled Water-Free Communities has spearheaded Bottled Water Free Day, a Canada-wide and international day of action to challenge the bottled water industry and encourage clean and strong public water systems.
In Canada, there are over 90 municipalities, nearly a dozen school boards and almost 30 campuses that have committed to taking action on bottled water in their sectors.