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Canada abstains on historic water rights resolution at UN

UN General Assembly passes historic Human Right to Water and Sanitation resolution over Harper's objections.

Council of Canadians campaigners Anil Naidoo, Maude Barlow, and Meera Karunananthan attended the Council of Canadians

July 28, 2010: The United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly agreed to a resolution declaring the human right to "safe and clean drinking water and sanitation." The resolution, presented by the Bolivian government, had 122 countries vote in its favour, while 41 countries - including Canada - abstained.

For more than a decade the water justice movement, including the Council of Canadians' Blue Planet Project, has been calling for UN leadership on this critical issue. Right now nearly 2 billion people live in water-stressed areas of the world and 3 billion have no running water within a kilometre of their homes. Every eight seconds, a child dies of water-borne disease - deaths that would be easily preventable with access to clean, safe water.

Maude Barlow, the Council of Canadians National Chairperson and former Senior Advisor on Water to the 63rd President of the United Nations General Assembly, said she was thrilled with the outcome of the historic vote, which came with the help and strong support of Council of Canadians members.

"It was a great honour to be present as the UN General Assembly took this historic step forward in the struggle for a just world," she said.

The result, she added, does not mean Canada will have to share its water with other countries. "Canada, whether it voted for or against it, is not on the hook for sharing its actual water," explained Barlow. "The resolution is very clear in that it doesn't ( ) touch the sovereign right of Canada or any other country over its water.

While the resolution is a solid victory for water justice for people around the world, the battle is not entirely won. "This resolution has the overwhelming support of a strong majority of countries, despite a handful of powerful opponents. It must now be followed-up with a renewed push for water justice," said Anil Naidoo, Blue Planet Project organizer. "We are calling for actions on the ground in communities around the world to ensure that the rights to water and sanitation are implemented. Governments, aid agencies and the UN must take their responsibilities seriously."

While Canada abstained from the critical vote, Meera Karunananthan, National Water Campaigner for the Council of Canadians, said it does not mean our country can sit idly by. "It is crucial now that communities in Canada use this opportunity to hold our government accountable to the international commitment to recognize water and sanitation as human rights. We must demand legislation at home to ensure that these rights are enjoyed by all peoples of Canada without discrimination. It is time for Canada to do something about the deplorable condition on First Nations reserves that have lacked access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation for generations."

Posted: August 03, 2010

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