Healing Gaia

Support Wellington Water Watchers' Water for Life Campaign

Water is a basic human right, but water in Ontario is in danger of being sold off for private corporate profits.

By Doreen Nicoll
Published July 11, 2018

It has been a very busy spring! I hate to say this because everyone I know has a demanding schedule and full calendar. However, between marking final assignments and exams, creating meaningful report card comments, writing for rabble, Raise the Hammer, herizons magazine and biweekly editorial meetings for The Anvil newspaper and a few well-deserved trips to art galleries, the symphony and local plays, spring is a blur.

Now the heat wave hit making it impossible to work in the garden, even if I did scrape together some spare time. Add to that, this past week was spent collaboratively working with supporters and the City of Burlington to save the milkweed in my front garden and across the city.

All of this to say, I just spent a few glorious hours weeding and mulching my front garden. I have to admit I thought I'd accomplish a lot more before heat and fatigue wore me out. In fact, if I didn't know better, I'd swear someone has been throwing grass seed into my garden and onto my boulevard, all of which I have to delicately remove by hand so I don't disturb my plants.

But gardening brings on an exhaustion that makes you feel great - especially when you harvest a surprising summer's worth of aromatic garlic - talk about local! And a shout out to my patient neighbours who, I now recognize, not everyone has the same demands and schedules to adhere to. A little give-and-take and understanding goes a long way.

Gardening gives me time to think about things. Today, I was thinking just how far we've come. In 2003, I was trying to get a pesticide bylaw passed in Burlington. I was being mentored by actionists from the Oakville Community Centre For Peace, Ecology and Human Rights, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), Ministry of the Environment (MOE), Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA), and countless other well-informed groups and individuals.

Burlington was dragging its feet, waiting to see if Toronto was going to be sued over its pesticide ban. Halton Region was also hoping the provincial government would act on this issue before they were forced to - and that's just what happened. Ontario's cosmetic pesticides ban went into effect April 22, 2009.

Fast-forward nine years and the City of Burlington took less than a week to change a redundant bylaw that classified milkweed as a weed in need of eradication. Thanks to overwhelming public knowledge, research and encouragement from across Southern Ontario, milkweed will flourish and nourish monarch caterpillars across Burlington. So, I'd like to encourage environmentalists and actionists to continue riding the wave of this momentum!

Water for Life, Not Profit

Many of you will know I'm an avid supporter of the work of Wellington Water Watchers (WWW). In 2007, WWW formed in response to the hypocrisy of water use in the town of Elora. At the time, drought conditions meant local residents were experiencing water shortages. Yet the provincial and local governments were promoting the development of the Grand River Raceway which would definitely tax this already overburdened water supply.

Since that time, WWW has expanded its water actionism to include asking the provincial government to place a permanent moratorium on water extraction for the purposes of bottling.

As chair Mike Nagy observes, "Bottled water is a symbol of water inequality not luxury. This includes First Nations reserves where water contamination is common place. Yet, instead of timely fixes to the problems with equipment and training, bottled water has become institutionalized in too many cases. But, really the question all Canadians should be asking is, why is the water contaminated in the first place?"

WWW acknowledge that water is a basic human right. Their campaign, Water for Life, Not Profit, focused on Nestle's Aberfoyle plant, which has pumped more than 1.1 billion liters of water since its permit expired 24 months ago.

This is only one of two permits Nestle has in the area. Erin's permit expired almost a year ago but the company continues bottling water from that well. Together, these two permits allow Nestle to pump up to 4.7 million litres of water each and every day.

Nestle purchased a third well in Elora after outbidding the local community of Centre Wellington. A moratorium currently prevents Nestle from pumping water from this well. And, therein lies the concern. Now that Doug Ford is Premier will these moratoriums be upheld and enforced or will it be business as usual in the name of corporate profit?

Supporters of WWW are expressing real fear that Doug Ford and his government may hand our water over to corporations. There is a sense Ford will side with corporations and support private profits over protecting water and environmental rights. There is also genuine concern that Ford will ignore Indigenous rights. Finally, many WWW members dread Ford will reduce the number of staff employed to protect natural resources and the environment.

Next Phase

WWW is planning for the next phase of the Nestle campaign and they're hoping you'll join in on the conversations to strategize and develop tactics to fit these new circumstances. WWW also see this an opportunity for a clear fight for what is right. Water must stay within the public trust and not become a marketable entity.

WWW believes water connects us all and this is an incredibly potent time to mobilize neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood along lines of caring.

On Wednesday, July 17, WWW would like to invite you to attend a meeting to discuss the future of water under the provincial leadership of Doug Ford. Join WWW members from 6:00 - 8:00 PM at 42 Carden Street, Guelph, Ontario. Located in the newly renovated community space located between 39 Carden and Eric the Baker, WWW will be meeting on the 4th floor.

If you value the importance of keeping water within the public trust, come and add your voice to the conversation.

Wellington Water Watchers
Wellington Water Watchers

In the meantime, take immediate action to support WWW's most recent campaign the Guelph-Eramosa Township (GET) action to protect Guelph-Eramosa Township's source groundwater. Please make the time to sign the GET petition and tell GET Mayor Chris White and GET Councillors to uphold the existing Zoning By-law and decline the Xinyi Canada Glass development application.

Check out the GET website and familiarize yourself with the WWW's advocacy for the responsible use of communal water, air and land in Guelph-Eramosa Township and surrounding areas.

Then, take a good hard look at your municipal and regional government. Are they active environmental stewards? Monday October 22, 2018 municipal elections will be held across the province. This is your opportunity to ask all mayoral, municipal and regional councillors, and school trustee candidates how they intend to uphold and protect our human rights to clean water held within the public trust, sewage and water treatment that remains owned by the municipality, clean air, and responsible land stewardship that will improve and strengthen our communal and global environment.

Then, remember to get out and vote!

Doreen Nicoll is a feminist and a member of several community organizations working diligently to end poverty, hunger and gendered violence.

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By positive1@cogeco.ca (registered) | Posted September 25, 2018 at 07:35:12

As the former spokesperson for Hamilton Water Watch in the early 1990s, along with Council of Canadians, Development & Peace and CUPE, we successfully lobbied the City to take back control and management of their water and wastewater facilities from a rotating cast of private firms once the contract expired in 1994. Under private management and a sweetheart deal with the City of Hamilton (during the late 80s to early 90s mania for privatization) almost nothing was done by these privateers to improve the infrastructure, eventually resulting in two very large water main breaks on Locke St., resulting in damage to private and commercial properties and subsequent lawsuits. The contract with he City exempted that private firms for any expenses over $10 000, so the firms, instead of doing preventive maintenance, would ignore any required spending which allowed equipment to deteriorate until catastrophic failure, costing the City millions of dollars (a cost which they, under the contract, were legally required to fund). Apparently politicians felt that the private sector could do things more efficiently. In some cases they can but they seemed to forget the fact that by being 'more efficient', they did so by cutting corners and the resulting savings went into their pockets and those of their shareholders, overseas. In fact one of the companies was linked to Enron, which itself faced implosion at a later date amid fraud and corruption proceedings. I support your campaign to stop Nestle (or any other corporation) from bleeding the Wellington County aquifer dry and certainly subscribe to the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development & Peace's pledge to make water a human right, not a commodity to be bought and sold to the highest bidder. Keep fighting the good fight! Nestle's track record is not stellar. This was the company that actively discouraged breastfeeding for women in Africa so they could shill for their baby formula.

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