A Water Forum in Recognition of World Water Day
Water Security for Canadians | March 22, 2022
Living Lakes Canada | April 2022
Parliementary Secretary to the MOE
In Canada, the bottom line is that our government is committed to reducing water risks and working towards a more sustainable water future through more coordinated, equitable, and inclusive management and stewardship of our waters.
MP Saanich-Gulf Islands (Green Party)
If we understand this as an emergency then every policy, every single element of the federal budget is through the lens of the climate emergency.
Is take the climate emergency seriously and move heaven and earth to hold the 1.5 degrees.
Global Water Futures/Canada Water Decade
There's another piece to the sustainable development goals and that's the equity, because not every person in Canada is being affected in the same way, at the same time.
Centre for Environmental Resources
A Canada water agency and our governing institutions have to be founded on two main things that climate and water it's the common crisis, you have to deal with them both with equal intensity and force and and attention.
As indigenous people, we've looked after our water and our lands for thousands of years .In the last hundred they've been completely decimated and contaminated. It's only right that reconciliation happens, by offering indigenous people a lead role (in the Canada Water Agency)
Canada Water Agency has a lot to offer to the international community and Canada has a very important roel to play in bridging the water-securty-energy knowledge gap
MP Lac-Saint-Louis (Liberal)
We need to remind Canadians that water is the basis of the economy, whether we're talking about transportation energy, agriculture, even high tech.
And that water is the lifeblood of our natural ecosystems and that access to water, and by that I mean the human right to water.
Députée Repentigny (Bloc Québeçois)
Canadian Government should be careful not to encroach on the jurisdiction of provinces, because sometimes there are regulations which has stricter than the federal ones.
Chief, M'Chigeeng First Nation
We need to pull politicians and leadership at all levels. accountable and to have them treat border and environment as a bipartisan issue in an honest and transparent way.
De Gaspé Baubien Foundation
We cannot must not work in silos, we have to pull together and we have solutions, as opposed to a despairing. I would implore our elected officials, please, if we have one opportunity it's a strong Canadian water agency.
Global Water Futures
Time is running out, to take our water crisis seriously. We need an active service oriented ambitious Canada water agency and embodiment of cooperative federalism, working with all to protect our ecosystems communities infrastructure farms, and industries.
See Bob Sandford's Synthesis of the Day Below:
Please allow me to begin by extending the very best wishes of the United Nations to all. So much happened at this event that it is challenging to summarize. This has been a remarkable day of coming together, a day of refreshingly candid discourse, a day of serendipitous surprises. It has been all of these things, but most of all it has been a day of solidarity.
The day opened with a generous, moving, thoughtful and sincere acknowledgement that through mutual respect and the sharing of knowledge we can not only manage water better, we can build a better Canada together. What a blessing, it was. Every day, we were told, is world water day. Water connects us all. Good morning indeed!
The Parliamentary Secretary began by thanking Elder Commanda and the broad range of water organizations across Canada that supported this world water day commemoration, and who support the creation of an independent Canada Water Agency. The Honourable Mr. Duguid then explained how, despite huge differences in water availability in Canada, we still hang on in this country to the myth of limitless abundance as a central element of our national identity. Terry then went on to list a huge number of water quality and security issues we know base across the country.
We were then introduced to the theme of this year‘s World Water Day: groundwater. He then outlined the challenges even here of making the invisible visible and why it’s important to do so. He then offered that the ultimate threat to our water resources and therefore to our livelihoods, health, and well-being, is climate change. There is the perception in some circles, he said, that you can manage water separately from climate. Not so. The climate crisis is also the water crisis. It is estimated that 90% of climate change effects will manifest themselves through the response of the global water cycle to higher air temperatures.
He then went through the economic costs of extreme weather events that since 2000 are estimated to have exceeded $32 billion. He then did something that not enough elected officials do. He explained the toll that climate disruption is taking on people. Each flood, drought and wildfire can be represented in terms of dollar damage to our infrastructure which we are good at calculating, but we forget the damage it causes to our social fabric, to lives, livelihoods, personal possessions and physical and mental health. We have no metrics for calculating the social costs of displacement, trauma, and personal tragedy.
He noted that on this 29th annual world water day, we also need to remember that some people in Canada do not have safe and reliable access to water. Many First Nations communities continue to experience drinking water advisories, and some of them have lasted for decades.
Indigenous water values have not been adequately recognized. For these reasons, it is imperative that we, as a country, commit to timely achievement of the water related sustainable development goals. We can commit to these targets, in part because our economic dependence on water has led to “made in Canada” innovations in water technologies. Our innovations represent opportunities for national economic growth through international trade as well as a means to help others in developing countries achieve their own water related to Sustainable Development Goal Targets. His government, Terry said, has committed to a new robust Canada Water Agency as well as to a renewed Freshwater Action Plan and, ultimately, to a modernized Canada Water Act.
In closing, Terry reiterated that the climate crisis is the water crisis. How we manage water is how we will adapt to climate change. As such, we need to raise the profile of water in our government but also among the people of Canada. He challenged all of us to do our part. The federal government is committed, he said, to doing theirs, both here and abroad. Let’s make every day water day.
Shamila Nair-Bedouelle brought greetings from UNESCO from Paris. She praised the Water Security for Canadians Initiative and called for enhanced cooperation between UNESCO and the government of Canada in support of the vision of World Water Day. She offered clear support for a Canadian Water Agency as a means of advancing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals on water and sanitation by 2030. She said also that open science globally is critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals especially related to water. Open science, she said, will help make the invisible physical.
Nair-Bedouelle outlined UNESCO‘s Inter-government Hydrological Program and how Canada can participate fully. On-going cooperation on snow and ice research, she said, is particularly critical. She invited Canada to step onto the World Stage at the UN Water Conference in New York in 2023.
Next, we had the high-level panel of Indigenous and all-party political leaders. Chief Linda Debassige reminded us that, despite colonial injustices, indigenous people have never lost their focus on responsibility for respecting and protecting water. The prediction of Elders is coming true, she said. We are close to not being able to drink the water of our lakes. She warned that we are on the cusp of unprecedented catastrophe and ecological harm. We must speak now for life that has no voice of its own before it is too late. We need to stop bullying the earth. It’s time to make the invisible visible. Industry and economy cannot be everything. Our humanity matters. Indigenous peoples are not just stakeholders; they are rights holders. Their most basic rights: the right to respect, and the right to be grateful for life. Aren’t these rights basic to all?
In her inimitable way, Elizabeth May noted that since the 1980s we have, as a nation, been dismantling effective water policy and governance of water. In the 1970s we had federal flood mapping. In the 1980s environment Canada has the capacity to predict massive glacial loss by 2030 and they were right. We keep acting as if we have time. We are not going to make our carbon dioxide reductions goals by 2030. No, we are not. Such dreams are merely public relations spin. We can’t even meet the sustainable development goals for water and sanitation in Canada by 2030. Let’s make sure, she said, that the Canadian water agency we create is as good and does this much as what we had 30 years ago.
Francis Scarpeleggia reminded us that a coherent national strategy is difficult to create. We should focus on compelling issues that Canadians care about, such as First Nations drinking water, bulk water exports, and large contamination release issues. Water is critical to our economy and to our very identity. It is also Ground Zero with respect to climate change. We have reached the limits of piecemeal approaches. The Canadian Water Agency must be a hub for water interests. We have many problems that only cooperation can address. Canada is a water nation; and water should be the foundation of our foreign relations. We have technology and know how to share.
Monique Pauzé reminded us of the global context of water governance. We cannot permit water to become a commodity traded on the stock market. That this is happening is a huge threat. Water should not be included in any trade agreement. Monique then explained how Quebec manages water. Canada should be careful, she said, not to impinge upon provincial jurisdiction.
Laurel Collins focussed on our attention on the water related crisis in British Columbia. She noted that it is not just British Columbia that needs to change to deal with the acceleration of climate impacts. We all need to transcend outdated policies and practices. The signs are everywhere. Warming of 40°C above normal was reported last week in Antarctica. What more do we need to know? We need federal leadership especially with respect to reforming the Canada Water Act. This is a matter of social justice.
Dan Mazier is a farmer from Justice, Manitoba which is heartening, as he pointed out, because it proves there is still justice. Farmers, he noted, have a very direct relationship to water. Rain makes green, but drought hurts everyone. Our response to the growing water climate crisis is currently reactionary. We are going backwards not forwards relative to the 1980s. Our infrastructure is not designed for the climate we have brought into existence. Mazier expressed hope that the Canada Water Agency would be holistic and that it would involve all levels of government, and the widest range of communities and people. We know what to do, he said, especially with respect to ecological services. He concluded with something I have supported for years. Society should enlist farmers and pay them to provide the ecological services we so desperately need to address the climate threat.
The panel was then asked to pick one thing we should do. The immediate response was that it was difficult to pick one. Perhaps concentrate on the flood protection program. Let’s stop working in silos and work together. Let’s stop ignoring the climate emergency. Let’s recognize that we face a crisis, a national and global crisis. We should hold politicians and leadership accountable on a non-partisan basis. We should adopt the concept of “all our relatives” as a link to all life.
Next on the agenda was the Water Knowledge Panel. Professor John Pomeroy explained why this is an important moment for water in Canada and how Global Water Futures has contributed to our knowledge. He did not hold back on the climate threat. The world is warming already by 1°C, Canada by 2°C, and our Arctic by 3°C at the same time. He noted that 9 to 11°C of further warming in our Arctic is not out of the question. He also noted that there has been $40 billion in damages related to climate impacts since the beginning of the century. We have to change our practises because water is the means by which climate impacts manifest themselves. National coordination is absolutely critical. We need a national agency with an expanded capacity to bring the country together that will strengthen cooperative federalism. No more foot dragging. We need a Canada water agency, NOW.
I wish also to note that John also warned that while Canada presently hosts the worlds largest university-led water research network in the world, as of next year it won’t exist. The federal government and the new Canada Water Agency need to step in now to fill the gap. The last thing we need now, he said referring to the technological leadership in aviation we gave up in the late 1950s, is the equivalent of the Avro Arrow in water science.
Dawn Martin-Hill outlined how Indigenous water frameworks can help us all deal with our water crisis. She demonstrated First Nation capacity to create leading edge training and collaboration models; knowledge mobilization; ground and surface water mapping; and co-creation of knowledge and action. She showed that by way of this capacity it is possible to achieve multiple Sustainable Development Goals simultaneously. But such initiatives need support. In this, a Canada Water Agency is critical, but it must have Indigenous people at the centre not at the margins. We need to learn from their thousand years of success in managing and caring for water.
François de Gaspé Beaubien told us a family story. His children told him that water is a serious issue. He didn’t believe it, but he does now. In the spirit of Participaction, a national program established by his father, his family was today launching Aqua-Action, with the goal of inspiring young Canadians to become entrepreneurs working in service of innovation and caring for and about water. François concluded by saying that we need a strong, independent, community oriented, business friendly Canadian Water Agency. And we need it now.
Corinne Schuster-Wallace reminded us that water touches at all the SDG‘s particularly three, five, six, and 13 which is climate change. Balance is what is important if we are to deal with concurrent planetary crises. But it is also about equity. Different values and status impact vulnerability and individual and collective capacity for resilience. The Sustainable Development Goals must be a mandatory part of achieving resilience. Additionally, we have to get our house in order so that we can help the rest of the world.
To show us hope, Merrell-Ann Phare told us a story about how the status quo can be changed. The story she told was about how women became persons in Canada. The final court of appeal on this matter was the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London which said “yes, women were persons” on October 18th, 1929. Newspaper editorials at the time apparently predicted the demise of civilized society. As former chief justice of Canada Beverly McLaughlin said, Canada came of age as a legal and jurisprudential force because it chose to change the way we agree to act. “Why do I share this with you?” Merrell-Ann asked. Because we are at a similar critical point in our evolution as a nation. We must evolve to survive. Climate change means we have to adapt not only our policies and laws but also our institutions and governance. We have created the status quo - the way we have managed water for 150 years - but it needs to change and needs to change now.
The Canada Water Agency must be created as an institution that is fit for the job of nation-building. What this means is that it must fundamentally be structured to deal with two key facts. First, the climate crisis is a water crisis. Second, water crosses every political boundary, every legal boundary. No government can go it alone. To address these extremely complicated problems we have to collaborate. The Canada Water Agency can and must do this. Only Canada can do this. It is Canada’s obligation, It is Canada‘s role, and Canada‘s opportunity to do this. This is how we again can come of age in the now climate change impacted world that we live in.
May I conclude with some final thoughts. First of all, what a morning! François de Gaspé Beaubien again noted that it was an extraordinary event in part because it was face-to-face, but even more so because of the wonderful dialogue and rich sidebar conversations that I am sure are just beginning.
We heard from all the political parties and what we heard was unanimity across party lines. Also, we had intense focus on urgency and hope.
The unexpected lesson we learn through this initiative is that full reform is not out of the question. This morning we demonstrated that there’s nothing in the Canadian federalist political structure that makes the kinds of reform necessary to adapt successfully to climate change impossible. It is no longer possible to say that such levels of reform are out of the question because of legislative, legal, policy or political obstacles.
This should be viewed as good news. Governments don’t have to be limited to playing around the edges of reform, they can make real change happen. Sustainability is not an impossible goal. The legal powers are in appropriate hands and necessary policy avenues do in fact exist to make such changes in governments possible. What is needed is leader ship.
The Water Knowledge Panel left me with an overriding sensibility. Good science involves not just the sharing of knowledge about the world. It is a candle we light when we want to see and be warmed by the truth. But as we have seen in the last year, scientific knowledge alone will not be enough to get us through the bottleneck in which we presently find ourselves in the human journey. More than at any time in our history we need to braid together all of humanities ways of knowing and caring. We need to bring Indigenous and local wisdom as well as scientific knowledge to bear on the challenge of ensuring sustainable human presents on this planet, a presence that depends utterly on water. But that is only where we start. As François de Gaspé Beaubien said, we drink the equivalent of 50 credit cards in the form of micro plastics each year that are in our drinking water. What we were talking about here with climate change is only the tip of the iceberg.
We need to face the fact that we face a national emergency. We need to end this heartbreaking and needless war, deal with the lingering Covid crisis and get on top of the climate get on top of climate change before it gets away on us.
As the panellists concluded, there is hope but we must do the hard work that hope demands so that we can go from hope to meaningful action. Finally, today it was clear that this is a transformational moment, not just for the Canadian Water Agency, but for Canada and for the future of all Canadians.
Let us sieze this moment. Now.