FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 15, 2012
TORONTO – The Forum for Leadership on Water (FLOW) today released a report, entitled “FLOW Monitor: Progress Towards Freshwater Policy Since 2007,” which finds that the slow and steady decline in federal water science and management capacity may negatively affect government’s ability to protect Canada’s freshwater resources.
“What is most concerning in this report is that just as Canadian water issues are escalating, the capacity of the federal government to address them is being eroded,” said FLOW member and WWF-Canada Freshwater Director, Tony Maas. “The federal government has a constitutional responsibility to help address the growing health and environmental concerns facing Canadians and Canadian waters from coast to coast to coast. Water management is a shared responsibility in Canada and we need a strong signal from the federal government that it is willing to do its share.”
“From previous experience, we know that reduced government capacity can have severe impacts on water and health,” said Nancy Goucher, FLOW Program Manager. “Budget cuts and downloading in the 1990s were partially responsible for the 2001 Walkerton tragedy, where seven people died and 2,300 became ill after drinking contaminated municipal water. To this day, many Canadians still do not have safe drinking water.”
The report has several findings, including:
- Gaps in legislation leave many Canadians without safe drinking water – there are hundreds of drinking water advisories in effect across Canada at any given time and 73% of First Nations water systems are at high or moderate risk of failing to produce safe drinking water
- Canada’s increasingly inadequate water science program leaves drinking water sources and ecosystems vulnerable to pollution. It will take another two decades to complete basic mapping of Canada’s major aquifers, posing undue health and security risks to communities from industrial developments
- Abandoning Canada’s Kyoto commitments on top of budget cuts to successful and cost-effective federal programs, undermine the few programs implemented to understand the impacts of climate change in Canadian communities.
Download the full report here.
The Forum for Leadership on Water (FLOW) is an independent group of Canada’s most highly regarded water policy experts that encourages action to protect critical fresh water resources.
# # #
TORONTO, July 29, 2010— RBC today announced the last wave of its 2010 RBC Blue Water Project Leadership Grant recipients. Seven organizations from Canada, the United States and Trinidad & Tobago will share over $1.2 million. This is in addition to the $2 million in grants to 22 organizations announced in June, 2010.
RBC's funding will support a range of projects from wetland and shoreline restoration to water quality monitoring and sharing of sustainable water management practices in agricultural regions. The seven new RBC Blue Water grant recipients are:
Wildsight: A grant of $150,000 will enable Wildsight and the Lake Winnipeg Foundation to launch the Living Lakes Network Canada, a national network whose mission is to enhance the protection, restoration and rehabilitation of lakes, wetlands, rivers, and other water bodies of Canada. This NGO based network is developed in partnership with Living Lakes International and Global Nature Fund.
Manitoba Museum: A grant of $200,000 will support the creation of a Lake Winnipeg Basin Ecosystem Challenge - the first Canadian virtual simulator that will allow users to manipulate different real-life variables that impact long-term sustainable development of the Lake Winnipeg Basin. By balancing issues such as economic development, environmental protection, water quality and biodiversity, people will experience how their personal choices affect the health of one of North America's largest ecosystems. The Museum has partnered with the International Institute of Sustainable Development, another RBC Blue Water Project grant recipient on this initiative.
Mid-Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society: A grant of $70,000 will help this organization protect the Englishman River watershed and its rich ecosystem by funding an assessment of the interaction of ground and surface water. The findings will be communicated to the public, as well as to provincial, regional and municipal water managers so they can make more informed planning decisions.
Forum for Leadership on Water (FLOW): FLOW, a project of Tides Canada Initiatives, is an independent group of water leaders and experts from across Canada that promotes solutions to protect Canada's freshwater resources. RBC's funding of $300,000 will be used to work with Assembly of First Nations in scoping a First Nations Water Commission. The Water Commission will enhance First Nations' capacity to improve their drinking water systems as well as become more involved in broader, national water management discussions and decision-making. RBC will also support a water expert forum in the Northwest Territories (NWT) to assist in the exchange of water information and expertise between the North and South. The forum will help NWT water managers access world-class knowledge to implement the new territorial water strategy, while sharing innovative ideas applied by the Northwest Territories broadly across Canada.
Wildlands League: A grant of $200,000 will help Wildlands League develop an integrated watershed plan with the Shibogama Tribal Council, whose five main communities live in the Severn and Winisk watersheds in the far north of Ontario. These rare, ecologically significant watersheds remain undammed and unregulated, and Wildlands League will map them using the best available data on current and proposed uses. The organization will also work with the tribal council to develop "first principles" for watershed stewardship using indigenous knowledge.
Ocean Foundation: A grant of US$250,000 will help this organization produce interactive, educational modules about local watersheds for visitors to the Expedition Blue Planet tour, featuring Alexandra Cousteau and her Blue Legacy team. Over five months, the team will travel across North America in a custom biodiesel bus to film significant global water issues and conduct community "watershed action" days along the way. The tour itself, sponsored by RBC and produced in partnership with the National Geographical Society's Freshwater Initiative (also funded by the RBC Blue Water Project), will travel 23,000 kilometres and its content will be delivered through online, live events, media, classroom programs and television.
TRINIDAD & TOBAGO
University of West Indies: A grant of US$60,000 will help the University's Institute of Gender and Development Studies/Women Gender Water Network, of St. Augustine Campus partner with the Institute for Public Health and Water Research to offer a vacation camp for more than 90 children, aged 8-12 in Matelot, Biche and Icacos, three rural communities recently affected by school closures caused by water scarcity. The camp will be an interactive and fun environment to learn about all aspects of water - sources of water, the sustainable use of water and water management, hygiene and sanitation.
RBC is recognized among the world's financial, social and environmental leaders and is listed on the 2009-2010 Dow Jones Sustainability World Index and the DJSI North American Index. RBC has been named one of Canada's Greenest Employers, one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers, one of Canada's 50 Most Socially Responsible Corporations and one of the Best Workplaces in Canada. In 2009, RBC contributed more than $105 million to community causes worldwide, through donations of more than $52.6 million, and an additional $52.5 million in sponsorship of community events and national organizations.
The RBC Blue Water Project is a 10-year, $50 million philanthropic commitment to supporting organizations that protect watersheds and ensure access to clean drinking water in Canada and abroad. Since 2007, RBC has committed more than $25 million in single and multi-year grants to 292 organizations, including the seven announced today.
Applications for the 2011 RBC Blue Water Project Leadership Grants are due in March 2011. Applications for Community Action Grants are accepted year-round. For more information on the RBC Blue Water Project, as well as grant guidelines and application forms, visit www.rbc.com/bluewater.
- 30 -
Jackie Braden, Brand Communications, (416) 974-1724, firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: Financial references in Canadian dollars unless otherwise indicated.
TORONTO – Ten years after Walkerton, Canadians remain at risk of waterborne disease outbreaks as a growing divide emerges between those who have access to safe drinking water and those that do not.
Ecojustice and Forum for Leadership on Water (FLOW) have issued Seeking Water Justice: Strengthening Legal Protection for Canada’s Drinking Water, a national brief on the status of drinking water quality in Canada. The paper reveals a two tiered system of drinking water management where urban centres benefit from better standards, technology and personnel while rural and first nations communities remain at risk due to inadequate infrastructure, patchwork provincial laws, and a lack of binding drinking water standards from the federal government.
The report is endorsed by Assembly of First Nations and National Specialty Society for Community Medicine.
“Walkerton and Kashechewan demonstrated the risks involved with poor water management,” said Ecojustice Staff Lawyer Randy Christensen. “That risk remains, especially in rural and First Nations communities.”
Canada remains one of the few industrialized countries without national legally binding drinking water standards. Only four jurisdictions – Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and Nova Scotia – boast drinking water that meets the current voluntary federal standards. Other communities do not fare as well:
- Latest available data shows that 1776 drinking water advisories are in place in Canada.
- As of April 30th, 116 First nations communities were under Drinking Water Advisory for risk of waterborne contaminants
- 20%-40% of all rural wells have coliform or nitrate concentrations in excess of drinking water guidelines, threatening citizens with illness or even in severe cases, death.
- Less than half of Canadian provinces and territories require “advanced” treatment of surface water, which is standard practice in the European Union and the United States.
“It’s unacceptable for a wealthy country in the 21st century to have these sorts of problems,” said FLOW Program Coordinator Nancy Goucher. “Canadians deserve and demand better leadership to ensure safe drinking water for their families.”
“Every family in Canada should have access to clean, safe drinking water as a fundamental human right," said Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo. "Similar to the findings of the Expert Panel on Safe Drinking Water for First Nations, the Seeking Water Justice report, outlines solid steps that can be taken toward ensuring safe drinking water in First Nation communities. This includes working with First Nations in full partnership to identify solutions, such as developing national water standards and ensuring stable and sustainable funding supports to address gaps in infrastructure and training at the community level."
The Report calls for strong federal water standards that meet or exceed the current best practices in other industrialized countries, to extend those standards to all communities, and to ensure adequate resources for the safety of drinking water on First Nations reserves.
For more information contact:
Randy Christensen, Staff Lawyer, Ecojustice (647) 654-2156
Nancy Goucher, Program Coordinator, Forum for Leadership on Water (647) 891-0338
Karyn Pugliese, Acting Director, Communications, Assembly of First Nations 613-241-6789 ext 210
The Forum for Leadership on Water (FLOW) commends the Canadian Council of the Ministers of the Environment (CCME) for identifying water as priority at their meeting on October 29, 2009 in Kingston, ON.
The press release highlights one particular article from the FLOW Monitor, which provides a chronology of over a dozen failed attempts of the federal government to implement a federal water strategy.
A coalition of water professionals, university think-tanks, environmental and citizen-based groups calls on the Ontario government to take immediate and aggressive action on water conservation.
On the 100th Anniversary of the Boundary Waters Treaty, FLOW calls for the federal government to invest in Canadian water security by providing greater support to the International Joint Commission.