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Canadian Group Delivering Water to Detroit to Protest Shutoffs July 25, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Capitalism, Detroit, Economic Crisis, Human Rights, Poverty, Water.
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Roger’s note: there are trillions of dollars to support thirteen years of warfare in Afghanistan and hundreds of military bases around the world and a stockpile of nuclear weapons capable of destroying the planet a hundred times over; there is money for record profits for banks and financial institutions and millions to bail them out when their crimes lead to economic disaster; there is money to pay CEOs hundreds of millions of dollars in salaries; there are gazillions for war profiteering corporations such as Lockheed and Boeing;  there are three billion dollars a year to arm Israel’s slaughter of Palestinian civilians (I could go on and on) … BUT THERE IS NO MONEY TO PROVIDE WATER TO POOR PEOPLE IN DETROIT.

Some naively and  mistakenly believe that in a democracy you get the government you deserve.  Yes, just as Palestinian children deserve to be murdered because their parents voted for Hamas.  It is a perverse world we live in.  In CAPITALIST democracy, you do not get the government you deserve; rather you get war and poverty.  But, don’t listen to me, I am an unrepentant commie.

 

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Council of Canadians joins movement against city-wide water war

As Detroit activists and human rights groups continue to protest against widespread water shutoffs, the Council of Canadians mobilized on Thursday to deliver a  convoy of water in a show of international support to beleaguered city residents.

The Windsor chapter of the council will bring hundreds of gallons of water into Detroit to help those faced with long-term service shutoffs.

“In a region that holds 20% of the world’s freshwater, the water cut-offs are a source of growing international outrage,” said Maude Barlow, national chairperson for the Council of Canadians. “Water is a human right, and it is unacceptable in a country of plenty, surrounded by the Great Lakes, the largest source of fresh water in the world, that people should go without.”

The council plans to deliver their convoy to a rally Thursday afternoon at the St. Peter’s Episcopal Church of Detroit. Several organizers will also send a petition to City Hall, asking for water to be restored to elderly people, disabled people and families with children.

“The human suffering is that of a major disaster, one that grows every day,” Barlow stated, adding that the council asks President Barack Obama to “intervene and to declare a state of emergency. It is appalling that this has been allowed to happen, even more so to go on this long.”

The city, which has been fighting its way out of bankruptcy in part by cutting public services such as pensions and welfare, ceased its water supply three months ago to households that were behind on payments in order to collect about $118 million in outstanding bills. Council members recently agreed to a 15-day moratorium on the shutoffs to allow residents time to catch up on what they owe, but emphasized that it was temporary. The policy began to receive international attention as residents held rallies and mass protests and the United Nations declared the shutoffs a violation of human rights.

More than 14,000 households were disconnected between April and June, while the Detroit Water and Sewage Department (DWSD) announced plans to increase the shutoffs to up to 3,000 households a month. But according to Catarina de Albuquerque, UN expert on the human right to water and sanitation, disconnections for delinquent bills are only “permissible” if residents are simply choosing not to pay, which is not the case for the majority of the city’s low-income households.

“Disconnections due to non-payment are only permissible if it can be shown that the resident is able to pay but is not paying,” de Albuquerque said. “In other words, when there is genuine inability to pay, human rights simply forbids disconnections.”

Detroit’s cost of living is too high for many of its low-income residents, particularly as they take the brunt of service cuts decided on by their bankruptcy manager, Kevyn Orr. “Our water rates rise continuously,” Priscilla Dziubek, a spokesperson for the Detroit People’s Water Board, told Common Dreams. “More and more people are struggling with their water bills. We have a loss of democracy. [The city] should make decisions with the citizens of Detroit in mind.”

Water bills in Detroit have gone up by 119 percent in the past 10 years. In June, the city council approved an 8.7 percent increase in rates. At the same time, unemployment rates reached a record high and the poverty rate hit 40 percent. Orr ordered the shutoffs for anyone who owes more than $150 on their bill, while the DWSD said that the procedure is standard and enforced every year.

But as the Michigan Citizen pointed out in June, there is a notable discrepancy in who gets their water services turned off and who doesn’t: Low-income residents do while elite establishments — like the Palmer Park Golf Club, which owes $200,000; Ford Field, which owes $55,000; and the Joe Louis Arena, which owes $80,000,  — don’t.

“Why are they going after citizens?” Dziubek said. “They could collect from one of these large accounts and get a lot more money.”

The Detroit People’s Water Board and several other organizations, including Food & Water Watch, called on the city’s managers to implement a water affordability plan that would ease the burden on low-income residents. In a report (PDF) submitted to the special rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, the Detroit People’s Water Board stated that “it would be more just and efficient for the DWSD to spend its resources collecting unpaid bills from commercial and industrial users than depriving households of basic services.”

Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said in a press statement Monday that the DWSD should “fundamentally reconsider its use of draconian water shutoffs as a means of strong-arming residents who cannot afford to pay their water bills.”

It was unclear Thursday morning whether the council would be able to cross the border, as the U.S. government has to give approval on allowing in any amount of water that exceeds what is necessary for “personal use.”

Dziubek wasn’t worried. “I can’t see any reason why humanitarian water would be turned away,” she said.

 

 

Tories to Flush Canada-led Water Monitoring Program November 15, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada.
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Council of Canadians/London

OTTAWA – The Harper government wants out of a Canada-led UN program that monitors freshwater around the world – a move being slammed as the latest Tory abdication of global causes once championed by Ottawa.

Experts say they’re shocked Canada would abandon a database it designed and has managed for 30 years, just as dwindling water supplies emerge as a critical issue. Environment Canada spokesman John Carey says the Global Environment Monitoring System is no longer a priority.

“We would like someone else to take it over,” he said of the database that tracks trends from 2,700 water-quality monitoring stations in more than 70 countries.

Twenty-four United Nations agencies rely on those details to assess how increasingly precious freshwater sources are being managed.

Canada has most recently co-ordinated the system from labs at the University of Saskatchewan and in Burlington, Ont.

The previous Liberal government set up a five-year trust fund worth $1.5 million that was allowed to expire last year, Carey said in an interview.

“We considered within the department at our management board last spring whether there was any opportunity to replenish the trust fund. And we could not find one. We began considering looking for a partner then.

“We like the program. It’s just not a priority for Environment Canada.”

Funding for three related salaries and “a relatively small amount of operating dollars” for the database will continue “until we find someone else to take it over,” Carey said.

Errol Mendes, a University of Ottawa law professor and former adviser to the United Nations, says the timing is baffling.

“What will be the most important commodity in the second half of this century? It will not be gold. It will not be oil. It will be water. Water is not a question of whether or not you have more money in the bank. It’s a question of whether you live or die.

“And the fact is some of the most critical countries in the world are literally running out of potable, drinkable water – which this institution was supposed to monitor.”

Mendes said the move away from the water system mirrors Canada’s about-face on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Canada under the Conservatives was one of a handful of countries that refused to support the landmark document, citing concerns it would conflict with existing laws.

The rebuff was in stark contrast to support for the process under the Liberals.

Canadian Maude Barlow learned of the impending water-program pullout less than a month into her appointment as the UN’s first adviser on water issues.

“That Canada would remove this support from this program is just outrageous and an embarrassment,” she said.

“It’s yet another example … that the Harper government is parochial, that it sees its environment commitments really in terms of optics.

“I have people say to me around the world: whatever happened to your country? We used to be able to count on Canada to take stands. And now Canada is in some cases worse than the United States – just absolutely refusing to partake and participate in international programs.”

Germany is among countries reportedly interested in picking up Canada’s slack, Barlow said.

“But why should it move from Canada when it was built on Canadian expertise and technology? When it’s been here for 30 years?”

Monique Dube, an associate professor at the University of Saskatchewan’s School of Environment and Sustainability, is a former research scientist at Environment Canada.

“As a scientist, I’ve used the database myself and I understand the significance of (it) in terms of understanding global water trends, water quality – and how absolutely critical it is.

“If this goes after 30 years of investment, I can tell you … it will take a lot longer than 30 years to rebuild.”

Dube says federal apathy for the program is especially wrong-headed because it costs so little to give Canada major international profile on a vital issue.

“What this gives us in terms of a contribution to global water sustainability is unmatched. So a million dollars is a drop in the bucket for something that has such impact.”