The Great Lakes Commons
From 2012 to 2017, the Toronto Chapter of the Council of Canadians campaigned vigorously to promote the ecological and economic health of the Great Lakes Ecosystem which is being threatened by water overuse and contamination. We advocate low impact approaches to development, amply successful in other cities and the elimination of by-passes and overflows of sanitary sewage. We need to discontinue the addition of fluoride in drinking water and implement water conservation policies. The overall management of the Great Lakes, the world's most extensive storage of fresh water, needs to allow full participation by communities in the region. It needs to be managed, monitored and protected as a cohesive unit (not by piecemeal international, provincial and state regulations). We consider the Great Lakes to be a multinational "Commons" to be cherished and protected for future generations.
The fact is that our lakes are at risk - pollution is worsening, water levels are falling, and invasive species are changing the nature of the biosphere. Areas that have been declared to be of concern are not being cleaned up as fast as they need to be. Some governments and corporations are seeking ways to commodify the bioregion’s water. In addition, the region’s water quality is threatened by improperly controlled commercial projects.
Our Toronto Chapter would like to encourage city council to declare Toronto a “Great Lakes Commons Community” by passing a motion committing itself to the principles laid out in Maude Barlow’s report and agreeing that they are prepared to provide local management of regional water systems in the interest of all inhabitants of the Great Lakes Region.
In addition, we would like to see Toronto become a Blue Community. The Blue Communities Project encourages municipalities and Indigenous communities to support the idea of a water commons framework, recognizing that water is a shared resource for all, by passing resolutions that:
- Recognize water and sanitation as human rights.
- Ban or phase out the sale of bottled water in municipal facilities and at municipal events.
- Promote publicly financed, owned, and operated water and wastewater services.
The Council of Canadians, the Blue Planet Project and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) initiated the Blue Communities Project in 2009. Eau Secours is a partner on the Blue Communities Project in Quebec. The Blue Communities movement has grown internationally with Paris, France, Bern, Switzerland and other municipalities around the world going “blue.” Schools, religious communities and faith-based groups have also adopted principles that treat water as a common good that is shared by everyone and is the responsibility of all.