Education and Health Communique #6

National First Vice-President and Chairperson of Education and Health Fran Lucas, September 28, 2017

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“Access to safe, drinkable water is a basic and universal human right,
since it is essential to human survival and, as such,
is a condition for the exercise of other human rights”(Pope Francis).

Rita Janes, sub-committee chairperson for the environment will be focusing on the topic of water over the next number of months. Her research has resulted in the information which follows.

At the 2017 national meeting of the Canadian Religious Conference, guest speaker Elder Josephine Mandamin, an Anishinabeck initiator of the “Mother Earth Water Walk”, spoke on the topic of water and raised some very interesting questions which included:
• Why is it every 3.5 seconds a child dies of a water-borne disease?
• Why is it 2 billion people around the world must drink dirty water?
• Why is it 2.5 billion people have inadequate sanitation?

Canadians are blessed as this country is usually considered to have plenty of fresh water. Does this still hold true or is an inexhaustible water wealth and health a myth? We wonder:
1. Why 73% of First Nations communities have water systems at medium to high risk.
2. Why nearly 2,000 communities in Canada live under boil water advisories.
3. Why has the number of protected lakes and rivers dropped dramatically in recent years.
(Ninety nine percent of rivers and lakes are presently unprotected.)
4. Will the 2017 North America Free Trade Agreement, presently being negotiated with the United States and Mexico, ensure Canada’s waters are protected.
5. How is water being affected by industrial pollution along rivers, such as fracking, oil and gas drilling, hydroelectric developments.
6. What is happening over the relicensing of the Nestle water bottling plant in Ontario.
7. What is the effect of retreating glaciers on the water supply. The South Saskatchewan River’s flow, which supplies 70% of the water used for irrigation in Western Canada, has decreased by more than half over the past two decades.
The Council of Canadians has advocated for years for a national water strategy yet Canada is still without one. The council is promoting the Blue Communities Project, a water security and justice movement that calls on communities to adopt a water commons framework to:
• Recognize water and sanitation as human rights
• Promote publicly financed, owned and operated water services; and
• Ban the sale of bottled water
To find out more information visit canadians.org/bluecommunities.

Endorsed by Pope Francis, the United Nations Sustainable Goals (2015) for people and the planet lists clean water and sanitation as one of its objectives, stating that “access to safe water and sanitation and sound management of freshwater ecosystems are essential to human health and to environmental sustainability and economic prosperity.” Learn more at un.org/sustainabledevelopment/.

On a global level, the Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns shares Pope Francis’ list of five key problems related to water identified in his encyclical Laudato Si’ including:
• the lack of access to clean drinking water “indispensable for human life and for supporting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems” [28]
• the challenges for food production due to droughts and disparities in water availability and “water poverty” [28]
• the continued prevalence of water-related diseases afflicting the poor [29]
• the contamination of groundwater [29]
• the trend toward privatization and commodification of a resource to which the pope describes access to as a “basic and universal human right” [30]

More information is available at w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html and maryknollogc.org.

National council has adopted three resolutions related to water over the past 16 years. They may be found on the website and include Resolution 2005.06 Developing Countries and Water, Resolution 2004.07 Water Use in Canada and Resolution 2001.04 Water Quality in Canada.

In light of the new information related to fresh water concerns both at the Canadian and global level, encourage members to consider submitting a new resolution on water for the 2018 convention. Refer to education and health communique number five for additional recommended resources.

Fran Lucas
National First Vice-President and Chairperson of Education and Health