Martin O'Malley and John Bowman
CBC News Online
MAUDE BARLOW'S STORY
is chair of the Council of Canadians, a citizens’
group with 100,000 members. She is the Joan of Arc of
those opposed to the sale of Canadian water.
"There is a
common assumption that the world's water supply is huge
and infinite," Barlow has said. "This assumption is false.
At some time in the near future, water bankruptcy will
She cites a
United Nations study that says by the year 2025
less than 25 years two-thirds of the world will
"The wars of
the future are going to be fought over water," Barlow
a 1999 paper from the Canadian Environmental Law Association
(CELA) that says: "Water is an essential need, a public
trust, not a commodity. It belongs to everyone and to
no one." The CELA paper continues:
water exports cannot possibly satisfy the social and economic
needs of distant societies. Water shipped halfway around
the world will only be affordable to the privileged and
will deepen inequities between rich and poor. International
trade in bulk water will allow elites to assure the quality
of their own drinking water supplies, while permitting
them to ignore the pollution of their local waters and
the waste of their water management systems."
specifically on the Great Lakes Basin, CELA says:
levels and flows will have unpredictable and harmful consequences
to basin habitat, biodiversity, shorelines, jobs and culture,
particularly to First Nations. Lower water levels will
mean greater disturbance of highly contaminated sediments
in shallow harbours and connecting channels and less dilution
of polluted waters."
that if Newfoundland is allowed to export bulk water,
it becomes, ipso facto, a "good" under NAFTA, which would
allow any other company in Canada to do the same. "The
prime minister can't blame it on the provinces or the
Constitution," Barlow says. "The federal government has
jurisdiction over trade and could ban (water) exports
tomorrow. Sadly, Jean Chrétien doesn't seem prepared to
Martin O'Malley and John Bowman
CBC News Online | June 2001
is an entrepreneur who wants to sell Canada's water
to the world and sees no reason why he should be prevented
from doing so.
he wants to sell water from Gisborne Lake in Newfoundland.
The lake is 16 kilometres long and 10 kilometres wide,
near the south coast of Newfoundland. White flew over
Lake Gisborne one summer day in 1996 and nearly didn't
notice it because the water is so clear.
developed a plan to skim 500,000 cubic metres from Gisborne
Lake each week and ship it in bulk to overseas customers.
He argued that draining 500,000 cubic metres of water
would lower the lake an inch, but this would be replenished
naturally within 10 hours.
He also argued
it would be a godsend to jobs-poor Newfoundland, especially
the small community of Grand Le Pierre, 30 kilometres
down the hill on the Atlantic shore. Grand Le Pierre used
to be a thriving cod-fishing town, then the cod disappeared
and now the unemployment rate is more than 40 per cent.
the town's mayor, Edward Fizzard, to back the plan. Fizzard
imagined a water pipeline from Gisborne Lake, a bottling
plant in Grand Le Pierre, work for locals loading tankers
to take the water to distant ports.
got wind of this, White's grand plan was scrapped. The
environmentalists successfully argued that allowing Gisborne
Lake water to be sold in bulk would make Canadian water
a "commodity" and thus subject to the terms and conditions
of GATT and NAFTA.
The same thing
happened two years earlier when the province of Ontario
issued a permit to a private company to collect Great
Lakes water and ship it in bulk to Asia. The permit was
issued to Nova Group, a company in Sault Ste. Marie, allowing
it to ship up to 600 million litres of Lake Superior water
to Asia by 2002. There was such a public outcry
on both sides of the border that the permit was
Early in 2001,
Roger Grimes, the new premier of Newfoundland, revived
the plan to sell water from Gisborne Lake. He has called
for a review of Gerry White's Gisborne Lake plan and thinks
there is a good chance Newfoundland may go it alone and
damn the federal torpedoes. Mayor Fizzard of Grand Le
Pierre couldn't be happier. "The water is just running
into the Atlantic Ocean, no one is getting one nickel
out of it," he told a visiting Toronto Star reporter
in May 2001. "Why shouldn't it help us? It just seems
like other parts of Canada want to keep Newfoundland down."