By Brent Stewart
“Is water a human right? Or is it a product to be bought and sold like Coca-Cola?”
That was the resounding theme at the “Our Water, Our Lives” rally held at Queen’s Park last Thursday afternoon. Much respect goes out to Maude Barlow, The Council of Canadians, Earthroots, STORM Coalition, The Canadian Waterkeeper Alliance, and everyone who made it out to the rally, on what was a very damp and dreary day in Toronto.
On the other hand, however, there was much disrespect from security personnel at the Legislature building, who would not let us use their public washrooms — which of course are paid for by our tax dollars — simply because we were demonstrators expressing our right to freedom of speech and assembly.
This was my first time attending a rally, my first real taste of what democracy looks like in the 21st century here in Canada; and the taste, as you might imagine, was a little bittersweet. In reality we laughed off the fact that we were treated as second class citizens after being asked, “Are you with the demonstrators?” by one of the security personnel, and then promptly being told we were not welcome to use the public washrooms. But we didn’t let that spoil the mood, because even though it was a gray and drizzle-filled day in Toronto, it was ripe with bright and inspiring possibilities. Passionate, caring, and concerned citizen activists had come from various regions of the province to speak about their struggles to protect their local watersheds and aquifers from seemingly endless corporate interest in arguably our most precious and unequivocally our most essential natural resource.
Many in attendance at the rally were part of the campaign to save the Oak Ridges Moraine, a vitally important landform that directly provides drinking water to over 250,000 people in southern Ontario. Others were in attendance to further celebrate the monumental victory at Site 41 in Simcoe County, a longstanding battle to protect the Alliston Aquifer from becoming a proposed dumpsite. The hard fought victory, that was years in the making, was finally achieved this past May.
Many of the folks who attended the rally hung around for the Toronto premiere of the powerful Canadian-made documentary “Water On The Table,” held at the Royal Ontario Museum later that evening, as part of the 11th annual Planet in Focus International Environmental Film & Video Festival. “Water On The Table” documents the struggles of ordinary citizen activists to stop massive corporate privatization and hoarding of our most essential natural resource. It stars water warrior and Canadian icon Maude Barlow, and was directed by award-winning Canadian filmmaker Liz Marshall. The film makes an undeniably strong case for water as a human right, but also isn’t afraid to interview some of the major opponents to this line of thought, as it unbiasedly delivers thought-provoking perspectives from both sides of the spectrum.
I thought the film was exceptionally well done, and extremely informative, I would definitely recommend this film to anyone and everyone. Because in the 21st century where the term “blue gold” holds more weight and significance than virtually any other, we must all raise our consciousness to this critical issue at hand and work together to protect our most vital natural resource, as well as our natural right to water. Our very futures, and those of our children, may wholly depend on it.
(Check out a trailer on this film by visiting
Brent Stewart is a new contributor to Niagara At Large and is a resident of Welland, Ontario
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