Protecting Canada’s water

On a rainy Tuesday night at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Waterloo campus, the Forum for Leadership on Water (FLOW) as part of FLOW’s “Northern Voices, Southern Choices: Water Policy Lessons for Canada” cross-country tour hosted a panel of speakers at the Paul Martin Centre.

The event was sponsored by both the RBC Blue Water project, Simon Fraser University and many other corporate, media and academic sponsors.

The panel discussion had two main focuses, both to recognize past strategy and accomplishment as well as to determine the extent of hydro-climatic change.

Speakers brought forth concerns and comments most of which were critical of political leadership and lack of water action policies.

The connection between northern problems and southern policies was one way that panellists discussed the critical water issues such as strategy and monitoring activity.

Panellist Chris Burns, a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Northern research chair at Carleton University, emphasized implementation and the action behind the strategy, while Steven Kakfwi, former premier of the Northwest Territories, discussed the heritage of water strategy from a First Nations perspective.

The harsh reality of hydro-climatic change, presented and discussed by Bob Sandford, a leading water expert, revealed that waters in the Mackenzie basin in Canada’s North are already beyond the critical temperature levels suggested at Copenhagen.

Sanfdord mentioned how, as hydrology changes, so must water strategy. Issues concerning water quality and availability may arise soon in Manitoba and the Prairies, claimed Sandford.

He called for immediate action into water strategy stating that “the Prairies may be the first Canadian climate casualty.”

Sandford insisted, along with David Livingstone, former director of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, that leadership is truly what is needed to prevent further damage to the quality and availability of Canada’s fresh water.
Kakfwi called for leaders to “come together to do things that had to be done,” to create more action plans rather than complacent strategy.

Other panellists reached a consensus on building upon the current model of the water policy within the Northwest Territories, which also includes clean water as an ‘inalienable human right,’ the only place in Canada that currently merits this distinction.

The panel was part of a celebration of 25 years of northern and mountain research at Laurier.

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