World Water Day observed globally - March 22

CUPE/HEU newsletter: Today is World Water Day – a day to celebrate our victories protecting public water and to mobilize for the challenges we face in the future.

CUPE members - including HEU members as CUPE National's B.C. health care division - have been fighting hard in Canada to keep our water systems publicly owned and operated. Sixteen years ago, sensing the water corporations waiting offshore, we united our struggles in a targeted Water Watch campaign. Today, the vast majority of Canada’s water and wastewater systems remain publicly owned and operated, and several flagship privatization schemes have gone down to defeat.

But the push to privatize is growing, driven by the Harper government and its privatization arm, PPP Canada Inc. PPP Canada’s hard sell explicitly targets water services, and forces local governments to embrace privatization in order to get infrastructure funding.

  • Be sure to sign CUPE National's petition as part of the union's new "Enough is Enough" campaign.

In consultation with CUPE's National Aboriginal Council and National Women’s Committee, and in partnership with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and the Safe Drinking Water Foundation (SDWF), the “Enough is Enough” campaign will rally support in acknowledging the water rights of Indigenous peoples.

The first part of the campaign is a petition, calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to acknowledge Indigenous Peoples right to water, and to take real action on ensuring all First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples have access to safe drinking water.

CUPE is also sponsoring an education program for First Nation schools. Working with partners at the AFN and SDWF, CUPE will be sending water-testing kits to First Nation schools, so that students can test drinking water in their own communities. The kits include classroom material, which will help students learn the importance of water quality testing.

CUPE is also working with the Council of Canadians and other allies, pressuring the Harper government to deliver on water and sanitation services as human rights. Now that the United Nations has formally recognized the human right to water and sanitation, governments must take immediate action to uphold and fully implement these fundamental rights. In Canada, this means taking concrete steps to end the on-reserve drinking water and sanitation crisis in many First Nations communities.

At HEU's 2012 convention, delegates embraced an agenda for action on safe drinking water for First Nations peoples living on-reserve.

Delegates also stood in opposition to the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union. This new trade deal would encourage and lock in privatization of Canadian water and wastewater services. CUPE, HEU and other labour allies are calling for water and other vital services to be exempt from CETA, and a growing number of municipalities are demanding they be exempted from the deal altogether.

From the global to the local, every action counts. A simple step is to promote the value of public drinking water services and stop the sale and distribution of bottled water through the Back the tap campaign. 

The right to water is a human right, yet over 115 First Nations have problems accessing safe drinking water – that’s nearly one in five First Nation communities, affecting thousands of families.

Footnote: Don't forget to observe Earth Hour tomorrow - Saturday, March 23 at 8:30 PM (PST). Turn off your lights, TVs, computers, various electronics etc. for one hour to conserve energy.