Is Water a Human Right?
On Nov. 18, 2006, CSJ Associates and Sisters gathered at Morrow Park to address the question: Is Water a Human Right? Not in Canada. The gathering was sponsored by Sister Jean Leahy and the Toronto Diocesan Council of Development and Peace, of which Sister Jean is a member.
A beautiful prayer ritual focused on water as a sacred gift, called Sister Water by St. Francis of Assisi. Sister Jean then spoke about the origins of water. Essential for life, it is a unique natural substance which exists in three states at Earth's temperatures: liquid, solid and gas. The fact that 97 per cent of water is found in the salty oceans means that a scant 3 per cent is fresh water. However most of this is locked into glaciers, ice caps and the ground, so that a mere 0.3 per cent is available for our use, making it very precious indeed. What makes this even more shocking to us is the reality that water cannot be created or manufactured. All that we have is all that there is!
Those gathered then listened to the words of poets who write about the motion of water, the song and rhythm of water and the resonance with these movements within our own being reminding us that we, too, are 97 per cent water and are truly one with the waters of the earth.
Keith Gauntlett, from Development and Peace, spoke compellingly about the great challenge of our century thirst in the context of big business which profits by private control of water, not only in third-world countries but right here at home. Bottling of water, a growing industry fuelled by fear mongering about our own drinking water, reaps millions of dollars from those who can afford it.
In South America, parts of Africa, Asia and elsewhere, private enterprise puts access to clean water beyond the reach of the poor. The World Bank finances this through loans to these countries to provide water controlled by private companies who sell it. Development and Peace, among others, is lobbying the Canadian government, the only country among fifty-three in the U.N. to vote against the legal entitlement to water for all people. Our voice is needed to make access to water a human right, delivered by the public sector for the common good. "Water, Life before profit" is the slogan. We urge you to sign the Water Declaration available on line from www.devp.org to help change this situation and change the world.
By Grace Sauvé CSJ