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Analysis of Canadian water politics by the Council of Canadians' national water campaigner.
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.
Communities are celebrating three victories against fracking this week. Quebec, New York and New Brunswick all rejected fracking after years of opposition from communities calling for the protection of community health and the environment.
The Montreal Gazette reported, "Premier Philippe Couillard closed the door on shale gas development in Quebec after an environmental review said its risks outweighed the economic benefits."
At the end of September, the Great Lakes Commission released its Draft report on transport of crude oil in Great Lakes region, which provides an overview of the increase of crude oil transportation in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River region. The Commission gave stakeholders 60 days to provide comment on the Draft report. The final report will be formally released at the Commission's 2015 semiannual meeting on February 24-25, 2015 in Washington, D.C. Thirty organizations signed a collective submission to the Great Lakes Commission outlining gaps in the draft report including:
Communities in Atlantic Canada are currently dealing with the fallout of fracking projects that occurred prior to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia's moratoriums. There are two New Brunswick communities, Saint John and Dieppe, that are exploring plans to treat fracking wastewater in their municipal wastewater treatment plants and to discharge the waste in local rivers connected to the Bay of Fundy. This summer, Atlantic Industrial Services (AIS) pitched a proposal that would see the town of Dieppe treat 30 million litres of "treated" fracking wastewater into its sewer system.
In March, the beleaguered—some would say besieged—city of Detroit, Michigan announced it would begin shutting off water services to between 1,500 and 3,000 households every week. It seemed impossible at the time but officials quickly made good on the promise. Detroit, the former industrial powerhouse of one of the world’s richest countries, has seen better days. But water is an essential social service, a necessity of life, and the city lies in the middle of the Great Lakes, the world’s largest body of freshwater. How could the taps possibly run dry?
Suncor is setting a precedent around the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Basin with its new shipments of bitumen on the St. Lawrence River. On September 24, the first ever tanker to ship bitumen on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Basin left the port of Sorel-Tracey in Quebec. The tanker, the Minerva-Gloria, carried an estimated 700,000 barrels of bitumen to Sardinia, Italy which arrived on Tuesday at 4:22 p.m. local time.
Detroit's water crisis has drawn international attention in recent weeks putting a spotlight on the water cut-off program being pursued by the city. Organizations on the ground have been calling for an end to the cut-offs since March when the city announced it would begin shutting off water services to 1,500 to 3,000 households every week. Following a report to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation submitted by the Blue Planet Project/Council of Canadians and Detroit groups, Special Rapporteur Catarina de Albuquerque warned that the mass water shut-offs were a violation of human rights.
So often we hear governments and the oil and gas industry promoting fracking as a way to create jobs. Job creation and fracking -- and other fossil fuel projects -- are often pitted against water, environmental and public health concerns. The debate is framed as a black and white issue: If you oppose fracking, you are "anti-jobs" and you cannot possibly be an environmentalist that supports job creation.
Here are five points that debunk these myths. The reality is we have different options and we need to get our governments to start talking about them.