The persistent issues surrounding our local water resources was one of the topics at a day long roundtable last Tuesday hosted by Guelph Member of Parliament Frank Valeriote. Valeriote’s special guest was Liberal Water Critic Francis Scarpaleggia, and together they gathered over a dozen community members from city employees to University of Guelph Profs to conservationists and activists. Valeriote began by saying that the issue needed to be discussed because, as in the ancient past, we may be looking at “wars over wells.”
“If we continue to take this (water resources) for granted – quality as well as quantity – it’ll be coming much sooner than we think,” he said.
Much of the early discussion focused on the issue of water as a human right. Last year the United Nations Human Rights Council removed references to access to water as a human right after countries like Canada refused to support the measure. The stand of the Harper government was that support of the human right to water would open the door to bulk exportation of our water resources. Maude Barlow, chair of the Council of Canadians, continues to criticize the Conservatives for this stand and believes, along with others, that part of the reason for it is so that the door to commoditization of water in this country could be kept open.
A reasonable suspicion, but as brought up at the meeting, Barlow and others have been doing research into whether or not the recognition of water as a human right would be in exchange for being relieved of sovereignty over our own water supplies. According to several legal opinions, what deeming water a human right would mean is that every country would be responsible for making sure that their citizens have access to safe and reliable drinking water.
"Unsafe water and sanitation are the source of 85 per cent of all disease and one in every six people on Earth has no access to clean drinking water," said Barlow in a statement on the Council of Canadians website last month. "A UN covenant on the right to water would serve as a common, coherent body of rules for all nations, rich and poor, and clarify that it is the responsibility of the state to provide sufficient, safe, accessible and affordable water to all of its citizens."
Scarpaleggia, the MP for Lac-Saint-Louis, PQ, was first elected to Parliament in 2004. He started the party’s National Water Caucus in 2005 and has chaired the committee ever since. Scarpaleggia says that the Opposition Liberals have taken a leading role in advocating for the protection of Canada’s water resources. “I’m not an activist, I’m a politician,” he explained. “I’m an activist within my party in trying to get them to pay attention to the issue, and they’ve responded well. […] I’d like to see the issue become a priority.”
Scarpaleggia added that despite the government’s point blank refusal to support human rights recognition on water, they’ve done so without studying the issue. Meanwhile, his special Liberal caucus met with Barlow just weeks ago in order to explore the issue further. “My job as a policy maker is to make sure some due diligence in done before we respond,” he said, adding that the Harper government, as of yet, have not done the due diligence, and are unqualified to respond either way.
See Guelph Buildings
“Guelph’s New City Hall is likely to be one of the most popular buildings during this year’s Doors Open Guelph event,” according to a City of Guelph press release. This Saturday, the city will open the doors to a number of buildings of historical value in the Guelph Arts Council’s annual Doors Open Guelph event. On this year’s tour, along with the new City Hall, is the former Guelph Correctional Center, the Boathouse Café, Hastings House, St. Mary's Ukrainian Catholic Church and the Guelph Little Theatre. For more information, and a complete list of sites, go to the GAC’s website at http://guelpharts.ca/doorsopenguelph/section.php?sid=766