Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Water Law We Really Need

I just want to ask a question:

If you could create a law that would protect the water near where you live, what would you put in that law? Anything at all....what's the best, most creative approach we could take? What would you really love to see in that law?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Laughing Under Water

'You kids today with your water. When we were kids we didn't have water. We used to suck the fluid out of mud, and we were grateful for that fluid.' - Dom Irrera

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Laughing Under Water

Laughing Under Water: Well, Art is Art, isn't it? Still, on the other hand, water is water. And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now you tell me what you know - Groucho Marx

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Series of Thoughts on Reconciliation

Reconciliation as the Goal of Consultation with Aboriginal Peoples

Things that do not lead to reconciliation:

The idea that consultation does not require change, and that the doctrine created by the SCC has limited practical meaning. So governments can proceed with their decisions as originally intended. Consultation without damages, without changes, without response. This idea is the one where procedural matters are what matter, but substantive outcomes do not.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Toilet Reinvented

After so many calls to address not only the water and sanitation issues facing First Nations, what is badly needed is some innovation. Or maybe we need to go back to the basics and remember that there was a time when we our society did not depend on intensive use of energy, infrastructure and massive amounts of clean (treated) water to transport away our waste. Indeed, we used to know that our 'waste' wasn't actually waste, that it could be fertilizer (just like every other living creature's waste!)

While I keep waiting for our governments to commit to innovation in addressing the waste and water problems we have, look at what The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is doing: a $41.5 million donation into new program investments and new strategies regarding waste, and in particular, the toilet. Check out the blog of at for a full story (and a VERY COOL VIDEO) explaining what's happening in this project. The end result? Here's a bit from the blog:

The Gates Foundation’s Water Sanitation & Hygiene program collaborated with Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) in Global Health and challenged 22 universities to create a proposal for a technologically advanced toilet. The criteria for the toilets are pretty intense. Each toilet has to be hygienic, affordable, and independent from a sewage system.

Surprisingly, eight of these universities not only devised proposals that met the above criteria, they also used technological and scientific advances to make the toilets even more cutting edge. These proposed inventions even have the ability to transform waste into energy, clean water and nutrients. It’s pretty incredulous, but if you don’t believe me, check it out for yourself. The Gates Foundation has a list of the eight toilet proposals that were awarded grants.

Maybe we could consider some of this innovation to address our water and waste woes?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

No First Nations Water - or any water- at COF talks

Probably because I sit on the Water Partners Advisory Committee to the Council of the Federation (COF) I just received an email forwarding a Press Release and Letter to BC Premier and Chair of the Council of the Federation Christy Clark regarding a request by Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak to amend Water Charter and related matters to water. MKO says:

The Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, Inc. (MKO) recommends that the Council of the Federation amend the August, 2010 Water Charter to declare that "Whereas access to clean running water is a basic human right of all Canadians" and to further amend the Water Charter to include the corresponding action item “Ensure that all Canadians have access to clean running water”.

Further, they ask:

As Chair of the Council of the Federation, MKO urges you to ensure that the matter of “Access to Clean Running Water is a Basic Human Right of all Canadians” and the two amendments to the Water Charter as proposed above are placed on the agenda of the Council’s meetings being held on July 20, 21 and 22, 2011 in Vancouver, British Columbia.

It is really important that all First Nations (and all Canadians) urge the COF to keep water on their agenda and to do everything they can to address these long-standing issues. The danger that the item will drop off the agenda is already coming to pass as seen in the special report by Tom Siddon (federal fisheries Minister under the Conservative government from 1985-90) in the Vancouver Sun (see: No mention of water by the COF so far.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Premier's Water Charter Forgets First Nations

On August 6, 2010, the Premiers of all provinces and territories of Canada, through the Council of the Federation, agreed to a Water Charter 'recognizing the collective obligation of Canadians and their governments to be responsible water stewards' and challenged themselves and 'individual Canadians, businesses and governments to reduce water consumption; increase water efficiency; and protect our water quality.' You can find it at

While this is a positive statement of intent of the signatory governments (and there is much that I could query as to how implementation of the Water Charter will be monitored to ensure that it avoids being nothing more than opportunistic political puffery...but that is for another post), I was dismayed to see that the uniquely challenging water problems facing First Nations was forgotten (or avoided) by the Premiers.

Focussing upon conservation, efficiency, and climate change impacts is not a priority when you are one of the 1 in 5 First Nations that doesn't have basic access to drinkable water. Setting a goal to have all First Nations have the access to water of the same or similar quality as all other Canadians would have been a courageous and appropriate goal. Instead, by their omission, First Nations are treated by the Premiers as part of 'the other', those that reside on federal land and therefore are not a great concern to the provinces, despite the fact that sources of pollution of water often begin off-reserve (meaning, on provincial land) and then flow onto First Nation reserve land to be addressed. And, this despite the fact the First Nations are also citizens of the province or territory in which they reside.