The sanctuary of Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church on Bloor Street in Toronto filled with a diverse crowd eager to listen to water guru and activist Maude Barlow and singer Sarah Harmer on a discussion about Canada’s water crisis. The focus this evening was on the crisis here, in Canada—not just that facing other countries. Barlow opened with a comment which she reiterated several times: that what we choose to view as far away crises (e.g., severe drinking and clean water scarcity; trans-border political tensions; corporate deception and greed; violence and murder) are in fact taking place right here in Canada. Canadians are simply choosing to remain ignorant and complacent.
“We are complacent,” is stamped in large letters on the back cover of her recent book Boiling Point, which “lays bare the issues facing Canada’s water reserves, including long-outdated water laws, unmapped and unprotected groundwater reserves, agricultural pollution, industrial waste dumping, water advisories and the effects of deforestation and climate change.” Barlow meets our complacency head on. As stewards of 20% of the world’s fresh water, our precious water is being coveted by many entities—from corporations to governments—and holding our own will be a tricky balancing act.
Robert J. Kennedy’s testimonial on the front cover of Boiling Point summarizes Barlow and her recent book eloquently. Boiling Point is, “An insane road trip to the Canadian water apocalypse courtesy of the corporate forces of ignorance and greed, and a blueprint for a rational, prosperous and dignified future by the visionary prophet of democracy and sustainability.”
Barlow was at once powerfully eloquent, graceful and compassionate as she summarized key elements of Canada’s current and impending water crisis. At one point, during the question period, one woman broke down in tears as she summarized a frustrating personal experience. Clearly moved by the woman’s emotional response, Barlow gently evoked Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s words: “The facts of this world seen clearly are seen through tears.”
In Chapter Nine, entitled “A Blue and Just Canada is Possible”, Barlow challenges us to embrace: a new water ethic “that puts water protection and water justice at the heart of all policy and practice”; fundamental principles that will guide us as we move forward. These include: water justice; public trust; and water sustainability. Barlow lays out practical means that individuals can do to ensure that Canada remains a water-sustainable country. Barlow doesn’t demure from providing real examples of political and social goings on currently in Canada that impact on all Canadians.