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CUPE is urging locals to join activists across Canada and around the world mobilizing to defend and promote public water systems and the right to water for all. On Wednesday, March 19, take action in your community to raise awareness of water issues and press for governments to act.

CUPE is working with the Council of Canadians, Oxfam Canada and the Polaris Institute to encourage all their members to work together and organize local events.

There are many ideas for local activities. Where possible, we’re urging people to organize their events as part of a cross-country day of action on Wednesday, March 19.  Targeting this day helps us get the attention of politicians and the media. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

1. Send a letter to Stephen Harper and your MP. Once you’ve signed it, forward the link to friends, family and co-workers. While you’re online, sign Oxfam Canada and CUPE’s “Public services FOR ALL fight poverty” petition, calling for safe water, health care and education in the global South.

2. Lobby your elected representatives. Organize a group to meet with your local, provincial or federal elected representative. Beginning March 17, Members of Parliament will be at home in their ridings for the Easter break – it’s the perfect time to press our demands:

  • Canada must spend infrastructure and aid dollars promoting public water and wastewater systems – not privatization – at home and around the world; 
  • Canada needs a national policy that outlaws bulk exports, sets national drinking water standards and increases federal funding to maintain and expand water systems;
  • Canada must live up to its international commitments to meet the Millennium Development Goals by increasing its aid to fight poverty and promote public services; and
  • Canada must recognize the right to water at the United Nations.

3. Host a film screening. Copies of Dead in the Water, a CBC-National Film Board co-production about water privatization, are available for loan from CUPE regional offices or from your local public library. Work with other local activists to organize a free public screening. You can use the public meeting to connect the film you’re your local water issues, as well as provincial, national and international concerns. There are many other excellent water-related films worth checking out.

4. Sponsor a municipal declaration.  Call on your local government to support publicly-delivered water and wastewater services and recognize water as a human right. Many communities have passed resolutions. For resources to help you get a declaration passed – and a list of communities that have adopted resolutions – check out Kairos Canada’s toolkit. Use World Water Day as an opportunity to remind your council of their pledge – or add your community to the list.

5. Promote public water.  The Polaris Institute, Canadian Federation of Students and Sierra Youth Coalition are promoting a campaign calling on campuses to adopt public water policies and create bottled water-free zones. The action is an opportunity to promote public tap water, and is easy to expand into the community. Declare your workplace a bottled water-free zone, or call on your city council to stop using bottled water at public events and instead use and promote public water. Don’t forget to let local media know what you’re doing.

6. Host a water book club. There are a number of recently-released water books that make a great read, including Maude Barlow’s Blue Covenant, about the global struggle for the right to water. Other ideas are Thirst, by the producers of the film of the same name, and Water Inc. by Varda Burstyn. Thirst, written by Alan Snitow and Debra Kaufman, describes examples of community resistance to water privatization. Water Inc. is a fictional tale about a plot to begin bulk water exports from Canada.

7. Submit an op/ed to your community paper. A sample op/ed is ready to be customized for your community. Contact local coalition partners to get them to co-sign the piece.

8.  Work with teachers. The Council of Canadians has developed World Water Day-themed lesson plans for elementary, junior and high school students. Download it and meet with local teachers to encourage them to use it in their classrooms.

9. Create a water banner. Make a banner with the message “Water for people, not profit”. It’s as simple as painting on a bedsheet, or using iron-on transfers you print on your home computer. Once you’ve done that, give people permanent markers to add their own comments and signatures. Collect signatures on these banners at the time of the video showing and any other opportunities. Use the banner at a rally outside an MP’s office or at other public events.

No matter what you do, remember to connect with your allies. Other unions, environmental and social justice groups, Aboriginal organizations – reach out as widely as you can. Community control of water is an issue that affects us all.

To connect with a local chapter of the Council of Canadians contact a regional organizer.

To find a local Oxfam Canada group, get in touch with their regional contacts.

Keep CUPE posted on your plans, and let us know how things go (photos are especially welcome!).