Protecting a sacred gift
Publication DateTuesday, March 28, 2017 - 12:15pm
None of us can live without water.
It’s essential to our survival, it keeps us clean, and it’s the foundation of sanitation. We swim in it, we travel on it, and we take food from it.
Is there anything more vital, or more miraculous?
Indigenous cultures consider water as a sacred gift, an essential element that sustains and connects all life, and across the world, Indigenous women are the traditional keepers of water. We all share an obligation to work with them to ensure that water in all of its forms is protected and conserved to meet the needs of all living things today and for the next seven generations.
Water is not a “thing,” to be bought or sold. It is much, much more.
Yet around the world, profiteers like Nestlé are finding new ways to make money from water. They dupe governments into letting them take water from our aquifers, raise the price a thousandfold, then sell it back to us as a product in a bottle. Energy companies use and pollute water to extract toxic tar sands oil, then pollute some more when pipelines rupture.
Corporations know how important water is. That is why they are finding more and more ways to own it, sell it, and profit from it. A big part of that plan involves the privatization of the public water and sewage treatment facilities we all depend on.
Companies don’t see water as a sacred gift. They see it as a business opportunity.
Here at home, more than 100 Indigenous communities across Canada are under a “boil water” advisory. At Grassy Narrows, Ontario, mercury contamination has been a serious public health issue for 54 years. Yet the current Liberal government still has no plan to clean it up.
The challenges seem endless, but the good news is, so is the resistance.
On March 22, I was honoured and privileged to participate in the sacred water ceremony led by Wisdom Keeper Pauline Shirt at the “Water is Life Symposium” organized by the OPSEU Indigenous Mobilization Team (IMT). This event launched the “Water is Life” campaign to partner OPSEU with Indigenous communities to resist all that threatens water, including privatization.
Together, we will stand in solidarity against all the corporate profiteers and their puppets in government who allow them to contaminate this sacred gift of life. In so doing, we will preserve the lifeblood of Mother Earth – water.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union