Isn’t clean water a human right?
Canada has one-fifth of the world’s fresh water, a quarter of its remaining wetlands and its longest coastline. We are defined by water. Canada’s Ottawa River watershed alone is bigger than half the countries in the world. It no longer runs wild.
Canada is the only G8 country without legally enforceable drinking water-quality standards at the national level. More than 80 per cent of the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality relating to chemical contaminants provide less protection for public health than other industrialized nations. Wild rivers have relatively clean water to start, so less cost and effort makes it fully potable.
At the provincial level, Canada relies on a patchwork of water policies, which jeopardizes people's health and compromises clean water for future generations. Built environment positioned closer than a 100 m or so above the high water mark enhances pollution.
Our Ottawa River watershed is said to be the most regulated watershed in Canada, with some 50 active dams. Harbour seals used to come all the way to Ottawa in the winter, until 1885, when the construction of the Carillon dam at the mouth of the river put a stop to that. And it has been downhill from there, for almost a 130 years now. Dam removal needs to be happening.
More than 20,000 Canadians die prematurely every year because of exposure to environmental hazards, and the total cost of pollution in Canada is more than $100 billion a year. We can't afford not to take action. The Ottawa River still takes raw sewage unnecessarily. Our rivers running wild would be worth much more than that.
More than 120 communities, representing more than 12 million Canadians, have passed environmental rights declarations at the local level. It’s time for the federal government to take action.
It's time for the federal government to implement the right to clean water in Canada by passing an environmental bill of rights that respects, protects and fulfils our right to a healthy environment, including the right to clean water.