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Over the last couple of years Canadians have started to see water privatization not only as an issue that countries of the Global South face but as one that runs close to home, through their backyards and their taps. In Walkerton, seven people died and 2,000 became ill because of E.coli.  An inquiry revealed that a private company failed to report positive tests for contamination because such reporting was not mandatory.  Awareness of Canadian’s water management was increased by a fear that water transfer between provinces could force Canada to export bulk water under North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  Currently, water is excluded from NAFTA until it becomes an item of commerce.

At the moment, only about 5% of the world’s water services have been privatized. The remaining 95% represents more than one trillion dollars in potential services. Only Americans use more water per capita, making Canada a lucrative market for multinational water corporations. Ontario alone has 408 publicly-owned water plants, meaning dollar-glazed eyes for multinationals and a deepening struggle for Canadians.

According to a poll from April 2004, 84% of Canadians strongly agree that Canada should adopt a national water policy that recognizes clean drinking water as a basic human right. Ironically, in 2002 the Canadian government was the only one to vote against accepting water as a human right at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Where their government might not, Canadians are taking a stand against commercializing water. A community campaign in Monctonexposed Veolia’s back door bid to take over management and financing of the city’s water infrastructure and the city council was forced to change the plans. USFilter (Veolia) operates the city’s drinking water plant for millions more than a publicly financed and operated facility.  In Toronto, Suez and Veolia were also found to be lobbying councilors, and a fully accountable Standing Committee was formed to oversee water management.

If water does become listed as “commerce” under NAFTA, indigenous communities in desperate need of drinking water might not be able to have it piped from another province across the basin because piping water would make it into an item of commerce. Farmers have pushed for a resolution to exempt water from NAFTA in the face of this conundrum. A coalition against water privatization formed to deal with these kinds of issues as well. The coalition sees bulk water export linked to privatization of water services and over-consumption which results in the degradation of ecosystems. Environment Canada has found that freshwater in Southern Canada is heavily used and overstressed. Droughts in the prairies and fires in British Columbia serve to remind people of the increasingly precious resource. One in four Canadian cities has experienced water shortages in recent years, making the coalition’s work more significant. 

Interesting reads:

In the News:

April 29: Canadians want water recognized as a human right
April 17: Manitoba protests U.S. water project

December 18: Ontario may charge bottlers for water
November 21: Ruling affirms municipal control over water, province not the final authority
November 5: Doer creates water czar
October 10: Report claims B.C. has worst water standards in Canada
July 16: Water report criticizes privatization
June 23: Halifax flushes P3 deal with Suez
June 21: Cleanup contract goes down the drain 
International Conference Mirrors Local Struggles to Protect Water from Profiteers
Water Camp Brings Confluence of Activists to Squamish, British Columbia
February 5: Hamilton's Crown Jewel

Water for All initiated a new collaborative website to help coordinate our global campaign focusing on the water transnational, Suez. The website is tri-lingal and collects information regarding the abuses, problematic projects, community protests, and exploitative policies of Suez, Go to:
English - www.stopsuez.org
Spanish - www.fuerasuez.org
French - www.arretonssuez.org

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