LWR16 Declaration


Living Waters Rally 2016


October 1st, 2016, Vancouver, British Columbia


We gather this week on the unceded lands of the Coast Salish peoples, including the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, to identify our collective priorities toward the goal that by 2030 ALL of our shared waters will be in good health. 


We recognize that our governments alone will not create the necessary progress towards these goals; that we, as water leaders and water protectors, need to advance the conversation, contribute meaningfully and actively towards progress, and do additional and important work on the ground and in our regions to advance and ensure freshwater health. We recognize that no one community, no one First Nations, no one organization, or no one government can reach this goal on their own. We have to work together, build alliances, and deepen trust across our communities to advance freshwater health from coast-to-coast-to-coast.


We will work to promote a water ethic that recognizes water as life, and that the health of the water is the health of all relations. Water needs to be celebrated and respected as kin and as a foundation for protection of all living things.


We recognize the need for reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in Canada within the framework of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We will educate ourselves and each other and we will facilitate broader public discussion and recognition of Indigenous rights, laws and knowledge systems. We will, further, advocate for non-Indigenous governments to recognize and listen to Indigenous Peoples, to ensure free prior and informed consent for all projects that could affect their rights and to uphold their rightful place as equal partners on decisions that affect the health of waters across their traditional territories.


All communities across Canada need to, and should, have a say on decisions that affect the health of local waters. To advance this notion, the freshwater community will assess and adopt a set of principles that will enable co-governing- community-based decision-making - at the appropriate watershed scale. We recognize that efforts in this area exist across the country. We will work to advance the greater sharing of success stories and mentoring communities across Canada seeking to advance co-governance for waters.


We further recognize that our system for electing representatives to Government fails to ensure effective representation of freshwater interests. We therefore voice our support for electoral reform efforts and encourage our Federal Government to advance a system of representation that will better reflect the needs, interests and diversity of the Canadian people.


We call on the federal Government to:

  • Immediately restore: the lost habitat provisions in the Fisheries Act;  lost protections under the former Navigable Waters Protection Act; and modernize Canada’s environmental protections, regulations and laws;
  • Review and revise Canada’s environmental assessment process ensuring that the health of waters, lands and indigenous livelihoods is paramount; and to
  • Work collaboratively and in full partnership with First Nations to revisit the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act given the numerous concerns expressed by Indigenous Peoples about the content and potential impact of this legislation.


Extractive industries are having an impact on the health of our waters, from coast-to-coast-coast. The impacts of climate change are further driving significant changes to the health of our waters.  From pipeline proposals to fracking to hydropower development - we, as freshwater leaders, need to support the amplification of the stories around the risks and impacts of energy development, extractive industries and climate change on the health of our waters.


We further need to build and support capacity for resiliency in our communities. We need to work, proactively, with local municipalities to develop and invest in sustainable infrastructure, in establishing watershed planning approaches which include adoption of green infrastructure in transformative ways and in building water literacy throughout our communities and especially within our youth populations.


To assess and protect the health and spirit of place of water, we need a multiplicity of frameworks to function within an ethical space that can assess both quantitative and qualitative measures. These measures must include the value of water, with indicators covering culture, traditional knowledge, and meeting the needs of Mother Earth - not just people.


We need to develop indicators on the health of water that will depict its importance to families, economies, communities, ecosystems, species and the environment.


We will begin the difficult task of collating regional data on the health of waters. The establishment of regional data hubs across all parts of Canada is a key priority. These hubs would: be repositories for data and be calibrated to support comparison and aggregation of indicators; be open-source ensuring access and transparency to information; and have incentives for organizations and people to contribute.


Community-based monitoring initiatives have become essential services that can provide credible scientific data on the health of Canada’s waters. They also provide critical engagement opportunities for getting the public involved in freshwater health. These initiatives, which complement monitoring by government agencies and other actors, need to be resourced effectively and connected to all levels of government to ensure data informs policy and decision-making.


Transformation can only be achieved if we also consider the influence and context within which our work as water leaders is carried out. There are numerous laws and policies that are not specifically about water, as well as external factors such as poverty, which shape and contribute to our experiences and achievements as water leaders. We therefore recognize that determinants of freshwater health extend beyond water indicators themselves.  We further support the piloting of social and economic measures within existing Community Based Monitoring initiatives and watershed monitoring programs, including development of measures for indicators such as: access to clean, safe drinking water, the state of water infrastructure (including wastewater and stormwater), the state of green infrastructure, and the overall health of our shared waters including addressing the presence of toxins and pollutants.


The ability of the Canadian economy and communities to adopt innovative technologies and approaches to support and advance freshwater health is paramount.  We therefore support reducing regulatory and institutional barriers to adopting innovative water protection or conservation technologies for small and medium sized businesses and First Nations.


The health of our shared waters cannot be addressed without appropriate resourcing. We know, as water leaders, the challenges that exist in harnessing human resources, volunteers and public interest, as well as ensuring appropriate infrastructure. However, our ability to achieve our collective and individual aspirations to achieve healthy waters cannot occur without financial resources. We need a strategy that harnesses financial resources of multiple orders of government and innovation in market mechanisms to support solutions for water health, such as harmful algal problems plaguing many of lakes across Canada.


Our shared waters in Canada observe no human-made boundaries. Our shared waters shape our collective and individual identities. Our shared waters can teach us how to build peace and friendship across watersheds. We must listen to our shared waters to achieve our goal of healthy waters across Canada.


Achieving reconciliation in the coming years will require not only strengthening our relations with each other in all our diversity, it will also require that we reconcile, as individuals and communities, directly with water. This journey toward reconciliation is one important step that we, our organizations, businesses, communities and governments must take in realizing our shared goal for all waters across Canada to be in good health by 2030.