Building a Water Movement that Includes All of Canada

When the Living Waters Rally 2014 started, I thought that we’d never be able to come to a common statement by the end of the three-day event last month. After all, the 110 delegates in attendance represented so many constituencies and interests across Canada (although with at least one notable gap, which I’ll get to in a minute) and it’s hard to get such a diverse group to agree on anything, let alone the specific wording for a collective vision.

But, a statement did emerge and I’m very proud of what it says. I was impressed by the positive energy and effort throughout the conference, particularly at the final plenary led by Jill Ryan of Freshwater Future, that made it possible for us to achieve such a strong statement.

Yet while I had a great time being a delegate at this year’s Rally, I couldn’t help being disappointed about one thing: the francophone contingent was not very big. This is ironic, since the Rally took place in Gatineau, Quebec, and unfortunate.

I know that the organizers of the Rally tried to reach out to groups in Quebec, so I’m not faulting them. It’s part of an overall problem that points to the need to build a bridge between the stakeholders in Quebec and those in the rest of the country.

There are a lot of great watershed organizations in Quebec, but there is very little relationship with groups outside the province. As a result, everyone loses out on lost opportunities to share insights, to work together and to really fight together. For example, Quebec water groups succeeded in getting a new provincial policy implemented in 2002 that recognizes the value of watersheds and how important it is to manage water considering all these watersheds. The rest of the country could benefit from hearing about this, just as we in Quebec could benefit from learning about success stories in other regions.

The water community across Canada likes to take a watershed approach, as we know how important it is to work that way. And so it’s also important to address the movement the same way; we need to stick together and work together across country to make sure politicians and the public hear our voice.

I see the Canadian Freshwater Alliance as the backbone organization for our national voice; I was happy to see how well the Alliance played its role at the Rally and I hope it will gather more people around it to have a stronger voice and make sure that Canadians know we have huge problems around water in our country that need to be taken seriously.

For my part, I hope to help the Freshwater Alliance meet with individual watershed organizations such asOBV--Les organismes de bassins versants- - and ZIP St-Laurent. Also the ROBVQ (Le Regroupement des organismes de bassins versants du Québec) and Stratégie St-Laurent which are the provincial alliances of these watershed groups.

I also invite groups to consider participation in Aquahacking 2015—Ottawa River Summit, which we at thede Gaspe Beaubien Foundation are organizing in partnership with Ottawa Riverkeeper. On May 29-31, 2015, 200 or so technology experts will team up with watershed experts during a hack-a-thon to develop concrete solutions to problems facing the Ottawa River. The event, the first of its kind in Canada, is all about making connections, and has potential to help build that much-needed bridge between Quebec’s water community and the rest of Canada.

Dominique Monchamp, with more than 30 years of solid experience in program management and organization, has been part of the de Gaspé Beaubien family for almost 15 years. Wholeheartedly dedicated to the growth of the Foundation, she plays a key role in implementing the family’s projects. One of these projects is initiated by the fourth generation of the de Gaspé Beaubien family; the River Mission project aims to raise community awareness about the importance of preserving the Ottawa River. Realized in collaboration with Ottawa Riverkeeper, this three-year project will culminate in the Aquahacking 2015—Ottawa River Summit, in the heart of the nation's capital.