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REPORTING · 2nd April 2012
Merv Ritchie
Recent reports have surfaced regarding Canada’s position to oppose the international effort at the United Nations to declare clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right. A remarkable statement in the following linked article states;

“In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) voted overwhelmingly to recognize the human right to water and sanitation, but Canada abstained from the vote—having tried unsuccessfully for years to prevent the decision. Canada and Tonga are now the only countries in the world that do not to recognize water and sanitation as a human right.

Canada tries to remove human right to water and sanitation

Canada’s opposition to the right to water is well known. Sources at the World Water Forum in Marseille, France confirmed earlier this month that the World Water Forum’s Ministerial Declaration fails to explicitly affirm the UN recognized rights, because Canada insists on the weaker language evident in the phrase “human rights obligations relating to access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation”.

Following the conference, Minister of International Cooperation Bev Oda said that "access to clean water and basic sanitation is fundamental to human health and sustainable development," but stopped short of acknowledging access to water and sanitation as a human right.

In June 2010, prior to the UN vote, then-Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon stated that he “will not put Canada in a position where our sovereign right to protect our natural resources is compromised by any international treaties…”

UN experts have assured the Canadian government that the UN resolution obliges Canada to provide clean water and satiation to its own people, but does not require Canada to share its water resources with another country.

Critics contend that the government is acting in the interests of multinational corporations, and not Canadian citizens.

Follow the link above to read the entire report.

This will not come as a surprise to many Northern First Nations communities. If clean water were declared a human right then the native populations could make use of a new opportunity made available in June of 2011. It was only then Indians could be considered human enough to be able to sue their governing authorities (the Indian Act) using human rights legislation.

Indians get to be considered fully human

This may be a significant reason for the Canadian Government to oppose clean water and sanitation as a human right, they would then have to provide it or they could face numerous lawsuits.

But another issue is of greater significance for all Canadians today. It is what is referred to in political circles as an “Order in Council”. Any Premier or Prime Minister can pass any legislation and approve any permit for any project or measure, simply by signing it. These Orders in Council do not have to be debated or exposed. They are generally spoken about as a document that arrives on the leader’s desk and after he or she signs it becomes law. Such is what is meant by the term “Order in Council”. Some go completely unnoticed especially if they are in regards to impacts far out of the public eye.

Former BC Premier Gordon Campbell used these extensively as did many other Premiers. So has previous Federal governments, even when there was no government apparently these Orders in Council can go ahead. Some have incredibly harmful impacts such as this one from 1979 where the Amax Kitsault Mine polluted Nisga’a land, water and food supply.

”On 10 April 1979, order-in-council SOR-79-345, freed Amax from the normal regulations. The local population was not consulted. There was no requirement in law that the Nisgha be approached on the matter. Instead of building tailings ponds, the company saved $23 million and opted for a very simply solution, a pipe, starting at the refining mill and ending fifty metres below the surface of the sea. For a year and a half, until the world recession shut down the mine temporarily, Amax was dumping 12,000 tonnes of the tailings every day into Alice Arm…” (with it lead, zinc, cadmium and radium-226).

With the current government’s position on environmental matters, the refusal to consider water and sanitation a human right, the future may look a lot like the past; a past long before humanity took into consideration the impact of their activities on human health. And "Orders in Council" may be getting signed today.
What do you expect?
Comment by Al Lehmann on 2nd April 2012
Why are we surprised? Harper and the Conservatives are the most backward neo-feudal politicos around. Just when we thought the American Republicans couldn't be topped for brutal stupidity, we elected Harper with a majority. The 27% majority is going to murder this country before they're through.