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Taps, toilet, clinics and education play a fundamental role in fighting poverty and securing equality rights for women,” says Robert Fox, the executive director of Oxfam Canada.

Speaking on Friday at the CUPE Saskatchewan Convention in Saskatoon, Fox said: “The fact that one-third of the people on this planet clinic don’t have access to a toilet or latrine has a huge impact on their health, their life and their capacity to be active citizens in their own communities.”

Fox, the former national director of CUPE’s communications department, noted Canada has the same economic structure as Peru, or Zimbabwe, or Burma – one based on the extraction and export of raw materials like oil, grains, gold and lumber.

“So why are we wealthy and they are not?” Fox said it is because Canada has developed a system of public services over the last 100 years – municipal water and sewer systems, health care and education – that ensures everyone has access to these essential services.

But he said Canada must do much more to press for the expansion of public services in the north and south.
Fox criticized the Harper government for its attempts at the UN to block a global convention that would declare water a basic human right.

“We must hold the Harper government accountable for its action at the UN,” Fox said. “The right to clean water and other public services are not a privilege. They are not a gift. They are a right that we have as human beings and as citizens.”

Fox thanked CUPE members for their work every day in delivering those public services – water, health care, education, community social services. “You are human rights workers,” he told the convention, “because your work ensures people have access to these basic human rights.”

Fox delivered a similar message to delegates at the 58th annual CUPE Alberta convention in Calgary where Oxfam volunteers collected campaign cards calling for better public services in the worldwide fight against poverty.