Summary of the Citizen’s Forum on Water Rights and Water Protection
Water is necessary for life. It is a human right. On June 18th, about 40 northerners participated in the Citizen’s Forum on Water Rights and Water Protection. This was the first public event of the new NWT Chapter of the Council of Canadians.
NWT Chapter Co-Chair Peter Redvers, moderated a five-person panel on the value of water, threats to water, the NWT Water Stewardship Strategy, community-based water stewardship, and our water legacy. The panelists speaking on these themes were: Francois Paulette, Dene Elder and environmental activist, Lois Little, NWT Chapter Co-Chair, Dr. Erin Kelly, Government of the NWT, Christine Wenman, Ecology North, and Lawrence Nayally, Idle No More.
Water rights and protection are threatened by many inter-related factors including industrial activity, climate change, trade agreements, lack of protective legislation, and attitudes. Across Canada, the Council of Canadians, Idle No More, Keepers of the Water, and other citizen-driven groups are working to protect our water and our human right to water. In the NWT, the Government of the NWT is implementing the Northern Voices, Northern Waters – The NWT Water Stewardship Strategy (2010) that seeks clean, abundant, and productive water for all time. A trans-boundary agreement with Alberta and water monitoring are central to the success of the Strategy. Ecology North is working with communities and other non-government organizations to monitor and advocate for our water. But more action is needed to protect water and the right to water in the NWT.
Panelists and participants agreed that more citizens need to decolonize, take back power, and speak up for our water and our right to safe water. We need to engage leaders and better support those who are working to protect our water. Each of us can encourage and support other people in our communities to speak out. We can learn more about the NWT Water Stewardship: A Plan for Action 2011-2015, trans-boundary negotiations, and community stewardship efforts, and advocate so these tools and processes work to protect our water. We can get behind initiatives listed on the NWT Water Stewardship webpage and the seminal Rosenberg International Forum: The Mackenzie River Basin (June 2013) report. We can use social media and available forums to share information with people who may not have access to research and reports on water. We can establish a foundation dedicated to protecting our water. We could form a Keepers of the Water group in the NWT. We can refuse to be complicit with those who threaten our water. We can show solidarity with people confronting the threats posed by the tar sands by participating in the Healing Walk in Fort McMurray on July 5 & 6. We can stay connected with the NWT Chapter of the Council of Canadians and join in future efforts to protect our water and our right to water.