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Six Nations youth leads protest against Nestlé water operation in Ontario

Makasa in front of Nestle sign. Photo: Emma Lui/Council of Canadians

"I don't want my friends' babies or their babies to ever worry about not having water," Makasa Looking Horse (photo above) said to the audience who gathered at JC Hill Elementary School in Ohsweken, Ont., southeast of Brantford, on a rainy morning of November 24. 

Looking Horse is a youth from Six Nations and a student at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. She led the organizing for the Putting a Stop to Nestlé events in the small town.

I joined the morning's events that began with inspiring speeches in the school's gym. Looking Horse made clear that she and others want Nestlé to stop taking water. And she reiterated that the people from Six Nations have already said "No!" to Nestlé's water takings. Semiah Smith then sang two beautiful songs. Six Nations business owner Dakota Brant talked about selling Birch Bark Coffee to raise funds for First Nations with Drinking Water Advisories (DWA), like Curve Lake First Nation. There are more than 100 DWAs at any given time.  

The majority of people in Six Nations don't have access to clean drinking water themselves, showing the lack of water justice with Nestlé being allowed to pump on two expired permits upstream from Six Nations. Michael Montour, director of public works for Six Nations, told The Guardian last month that 91 per cent of the homes in this community aren't connected to the water treatment plant.

Looking Horse told Guelph Today"Nestlé is stealing the aquifer underneath us, taking 3.6 million litres of water without our permission."

Eryn Wise from Standing Rock fired up the crowd with stories from Standing Rock, the solidarity among those at the camp and the racism and police violence that they experienced. Despite that, people remained resolved to protect the water.

Signs with messages like "Water Is Life," "Six Nations water not 4 sale," and "Stop Nestlé, Protect the Sacred" were hung up near the stage where speakers spoke in the morning. 

Six Nations youth and supporters ran to the river for the Water Is Life Prayer Run. 

A bus then took people from Six Nations to Nestlé's plant in Aberfoyle, southeast of Guelph. Many more people from the Guelph area joined to show support. Despite the rainy and damp weather, roughly 200 people gathered at the entrance of the plant to listen to speakers and show resistance to Nestlé's water grabs. 

Near the end of the rally the group walked down the road close to where Nestlé's security cars had parked to block off the road to the group of water defenders. 

The Guelph and Kitchener-Waterloo chapters of the Council of Canadians, Wellington Water Watchers and Save Our Water joined the day's events to show solidarity.

Makasa's leadership as well as Eryn Wise and other speakers' energizing words inspired the crowd. The rally showed that community members are more resolved than ever to stop Nestlé and protect water for people, not for Nestlé's profit. 

The Council of Canadians is calling on the Ontario government to obtain free, prior and informed consent as required by the United Nations' Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples for Nestlé's water takings. The council is also calling for the provincial government to phase out bottled water takings, a permanent moratorium on new and expanded bottled water permits as well as funding for job retraining for workers in the bottled water industry.

To learn more and take action against Nestlé, click here

Emma Lui is Water Campaigner with the Council of Canadians. This article was first posted on the Council of Canadians blog.

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