Opinion: Montreal has shown leadership on protecting water
Last Friday — March 22, World Water Day — the city of Montreal became an official “Blue Community,” committing to protect public water as a human right and public trust. Montreal joins other Quebec Blue Communities Amqui, Danville, Nicolet, Rivière-du-Loup and Trois-Rivières. There are also 17 other towns and cities in Canada that have made this pledge.
Essentially, a Blue Community makes three commitments: to protect and promote water as a human right; to protect and promote the public management of water; and to phase out bottled water on municipal premises and at municipal events. These pledges mean no privatization of either drinking water or wastewater services. It also generally entails installing water refill stations on municipal property to promote tap water and make it more easily accessible.
The Blue Communities project was launched 10 years ago, when the Harper government was promoting public-private partnerships for municipal water services. The Council of Canadians and the Canadian Union of Public Employees came up with the Blue Communities project as a way for municipal councils to reject privatization in principle before pressure to privatize could be applied.
In 2010, the UN General Assembly formally recognized the human right to water and sanitation, a huge step forward that shifted the debate from one of “charity” to one of justice. A Blue Community recognizes this and vows to promote water justice.