KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives

KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives

March 22, 2007 15:10 ET

MEDIA RELEASE: Thousands of Canadians Demand Ottawa Endorse Water as a Human Right on World Water Day 2007-KAIROS and Other Groups Spearhead Cross Country Events

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - March 22, 2007) -

Attention: Assignment Editors, News Editors, Environment Editors, Religion Editors, Faith & Values Editors, Foreign Editors.

Canadians across the country are taking to the streets, hosting public forums and writing politicians this week to draw attention to a range of water justice issues, including Canada's refusal to ensure that access to clean water is a human right. They're also concerned about problems created by bottled water consumption.

The events are being held in communities from Saint John to Salt Spring Island to mark World Water Day (WWD) 2007 on March 22nd and many have been organized jointly by KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, the Council of Canadians and CUPE, building on the huge success of WWD events last year. KAIROS is a faith-based social justice organization that works in Canada, Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

Over one billion people worldwide do not have access to clean water - including Canadian communities that are constantly under boil water orders. Aboriginal communities in Canada have been particularly disadvantaged, with more than 80 communities currently under long term boil water orders.

In the face of a deepening global water crisis, the United Nations (UN) has recognised water as a right but, in 2002 Canada was the only country to take a position against the right to water at the UN. Backed by thousands of supporters across the country, many organizations such as KAIROS, the Council of Canadians and CUPE have been advocating that the federal government change its position and make the right to water a fundamental principle in a comprehensive Canadian water policy.

Meanwhile KAIROS and others have taken a stand against the use of bottled water when safe drinking water is readily available. They are concerned that bottled water consumption is bad for the environment and undermines water as a human right. In Canada, expensive bottled water buoys corporate profits as people pay up to 5000 times the cost of safe tap water, while filling dumps with unnecessary waste. Bottled water operations can reduce clean groundwater that would otherwise be available to communities and farmers.

"Water is a necessity of life and, therefore, must be considered a fundamental human right. And access to clean drinking water must remain in public or municipal control," says Sara Stratton, KAIROS Campaigns Coordinator. "The very notion of buying bottled water, when a safe and publicly-funded utility provides drinking water, undermines the collective understanding of water as something which we all need to live".

Citizens, faith groups, labour, and other social justice activists have for years called on the federal government to establish a Canadian policy that preserves water as a public trust. In Canada, such a policy would ensure national standards and provide an investment strategy for communities with crumbling infrastructure, such as Kashechewan, Ontario.

Over 180 municipalities across Canada have signed declarations supporting water as a public trust. Hundreds of thousands of individual Canadians have called on the federal government to say 'no' to privatization and 'yes' to water as a public good. They want their politicians to act against privatization in Canada's domestic and global water policies. They're making special efforts to have this message heard on World Water Day and throughout the coming year.

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