Safe drinking water is a Canadian right

Ordinary people can step up to encourage government to protect our air water and land from pollution

March 22 was World Water Day, but the Canadian government still isn’t doing enough to protect our water.

When I was in my 20s, I hiked the Rockies and drank water directly from mountain lakes. I wouldn’t feel confident in doing that today.

We have so much more water than many other countries do. Yet we are the only G-8 country without enforceable national legal water quality standards. Our water is not so pristine as we like to think. On any given day we have more than 1,000 boil-water advisories in effect in this country. Some have been in effect for decades. More than 20,000 Canadians die prematurely every year because of exposure to environmental toxins. The total cost of pollution in Canada is over $100 billion a year. We can’t afford to let this continue.

More than 110 countries already recognize their citizens’ rights to live in a healthy environment. Canada isn’t among them – our Charter of Rights and Freedoms doesn’t mention the environment. But we could address this omission by passing an Environmental Bill of Rights to protect our right to a clean environment. Local municipalities have already begun to take action: 120 of them have passed environmental rights declarations at the local level, representing more than 12 million Canadians. Now it’s time for the federal government to step up. Water is a fundamental human right and Canadians want legal protection for our right to clean water.

Ordinary people can step up to encourage the federal government to introduce an Environmental Bill of Rights to protect our air, water, and land from pollution.

It’s time for the federal government to implement the right to clean water in Canada by passing an environmental bill of rights that respects, protects and fulfils our right to a healthy environment, including the right to clean water.

Katherine Maas

Victoria