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Communities take action from coast to coast on World Water Day

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Photo: Council of Canadians board member Moira Peters and packed audience listen

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What an incredible World Water Day this year! Over 30 Council of Canadians chapters organized events and actions in communities from coast to coast. Paris became the latest Blue Community. The B.C. Supreme Court ruled against the dump site at Shawnigan Lake. And Montreal is considering a city-wide bottled water ban

Nearly 20 chapters organized screenings of the documentary film, Fractured Land. The film is described as a coming-of-age story about a young Indigenous lawyer working to expose the fracking industry in B.C. Media covered events in Hamilton, Montreal, Northumberland, Powell River, South Niagara and more.  

On World Water Day, I attended the screening of Fractured Land in Chilliwack organized by the Chilliwack chapter, the Change Committee of Sardis Senior Secondary School, and the Waterwealth Project. I had the opportunity to speak on a panel with Sakej Ward of the Mi'kmaq Nation after the screening which was moderated by Larry Commodore, former Soowahlie Chief and community advisor to the Waterwealth Project. 

There will be at least four more screenings in Powell River (April 3), Blood Tribe (April 9), Kelowna (April 22) and Charlottetown (April 22). For details, click here.

Film screenings for A Last Stand for Lelu were also organized by the South Niagara chapter and community organizers in Vancouver including Vancouver-based Council of Canadians organizer AJ Klein, Leila Darwish, Mary Lovell and Claris Figueira. The description of the short documentary film says:

"A great injustice is being done on Lelu Island near Prince Rupert, B.C., the sacred and traditional territory of the Lax Kw'alaams people for over 10,000 years. The B.C. provincial government is trying to green light the construction of a massive LNG terminal on the island -- Pacific Northwest LNG, backed by Malaysian energy giant Petronas, without consent. The Lax Kw'alaams are the keepers of Lelu Island and its connected Flora Bank, a massive sand bar that is part of the Skeena River estuary and known by fisheries biologists as some of the most important salmon habitat in Canada."

The filmmakers Tamo Campos and Farhan Umedaly have been encouraging communities organize film screenings as fundraising events for the Lax U'u'la camp. To find out more, click here

Photo: The Fredericton chapter at last week's open house

Chapters and their members are often experts in their communities on water and other issues. Several of them spoke on important water issues including the Fredericton chapter calling the Liberal government's water strategy a "sham," and the NWT chapter raising concerns about fracking in the Liard Basin.

Maude Barlow was in Paris on the eve of World Water Day to congratulate the city on becoming the latest Blue Community. The Council of Canadians organized a webinar with Great Lakes communities on March 17 and launched the updated Blue Communities Guide including the U.S. Blue Communities in the Great Lakes section days earlier. The Thunder Bay chapter was recognized again for their work on Blue Communities and Great Lakes protection. The chapter organized the Boulevard Lake Water Walk this year. The Prince Albert chapter has presented to its municipal council on the Blue Communities resolutions for several years in a row and is determined to make Prince Albert a Blue Community

Photo: Maude Barlow presents Celia Blauel, the deputy mayor of Paris, with a certificate recognizing Paris as a blue community, March 21, 2016

Our chapters play a critical role in educating the public on important local, regional and global water issues. The Comox Valley chapter organized a World Water Day event on B.C.'s new Water Sustainability Act, Nestlé and bottled water and Blue Communities. Chapters in Nelson, Peel and Toronto organized (talk) tables at events to educate and engage community members. 

The Peterborough chapter organized a letter-writing action targeted at Prime Minister Trudeau and local MP Maryam Monsef on drinking water advisories in First Nations and in support of Curve Lake First Nation. The Sudbury chapter drew attention to the 120 drinking water advisories in First Nations and the concerns about bottled water and keeping water under community control. With Friends of Shoal Lake, the Winnipeg chapter supported a creative action including a "water bar" highlighting unsafe water in Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, which has been under a boil water advisory for almost 20 years, as well as other First Nations in Manitoba and Canada. Organizers collected notes of solidarity on water drops urging the federal government to end drinking water advisories in all First Nations. 

Chapters like Campbell River, London, Nelson and P.E.I. drew attention to the importance of recognizing water as a human right public trust in a press releases and Letters to the Editor. 

Photo by Julie Picken-Cooper of students at Museum London

With the Trudeau government's mediocre budget tabled on World Water Day, these events and chapters who work to protect water year-round are so inspiring and are proof that the change we seek will come from communities and from the ground up.

We'll be posting pictures of all these wonderful events so be sure to check out this Flckr album in the coming days! 

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