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CUPE and allies in the movement for public water took this message to Parliament Hill on Monday June 12, 2006: Canadians are ready for federal action on water. The Conservatives refused to meet with us, but discussions with the members of the Federal NDP, the Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois, did take place.

We were there to drive home the importance of protecting water from privatization, at home and abroad. We also made our concerns clear about Canada’s failure to enshrine water as a human right at the United Nations, when the government refused to support General Comment 15 on the right to water.

Copies of a letter sent to the Prime Minister’s office were distributed. The letter challenges Stephen Harper to act responsibly for Canada’s water.

Our delegation included the Council of Canadians, KAIROS, GAPA (Grupo de Apoyo a los Pueblos de las Américas), the Blue Planet Project, Development and Peace and Bolivian water activist Oscar Olivera.

Oscar Olivera was a leader in the famous water wars in Cochabamba, Bolivia that shifted the terrain of citizen action to keep water public the world over. In the year 2000, after many lives were lost in the struggle, privatization was reversed and a public water ministry was established to oversee cooperatively run, citizen owned community water services.

We made sure the parliamentarians were aware of the compelling body of evidence from Canada and around the world that privatization promotes inequitable access through higher costs, lost accountability and threatens public health. We argued that a national water policy for Canada must ensure a commitment to federal infrastructure investment for municipalities to upgrade their facilities- money that requires public ownership and operation. A national water policy must also guide Canada’s position in the international stage by endorsing the UN General Comment 15, which outlines the right to water.

Canada has an important opportunity with the upcoming GATS negotiations to keep water and related services out of the purview of the agreement.

See letter submitted to Prime Minister Stephen Harper on behalf of a coalition of organizations working to protect public Canada’s water.