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Another Rally for Water coming to city hall

Second rally in support of a motion by councillor James Gordon
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Come Monday, water protection activists will again gather in Market Square in front of Guelph City Hall. GuelphToday file photo

Mother, poet, and environmental activist Amelia Meister is hopeful the tide is turning on the subject of water.

Water, she says, is a human right, a belief that growing numbers of people around the world adhere to. The priority for its use must go to citizens, not for-profit companies, Meister said in an interview on Tuesday.

For now, her hope that a mentality and policy shift is coming, outweighs her skepticism.

Meister said she is part of a small group of local concerned parents and community members that “has said enough is enough, we want our voices heard.” 

They are working together to protect local drinking water resources, and to ensure that citizens come before water-bottling companies like Nestlé Waters Canada.

“We run on the premise that water is a human right and it is not there to be privatized and commodified, that it’s a resource for the people and should not be sold for profit,” Meister said.  

Meister is an organizer of the Monday, Nov. 7 Rally for Water, the second of its kind related to a motion by Guelph city councillor James Gordon.  Back in September, that motion called on the city to ask the province to stop Nestlé from operating its water-bottling plant and pumping operations in nearby Aberfoyle.

The operation, Gordon and others believe, could have a negative impact on Guelph’s future drinking water supply. The motion was adjourned to the Nov. 7 meeting of council.

In the interim, city staff has come out with a technical report indicating that, under extreme circumstances, the future water needs of both the City of Guelph and Guelph-Eramosa Township could be threatened by Nestlé’s water taking operations.

Nestlé officials and city staff, along with many members of the public, will be on hand Monday night to address the issue in council chambers. The rally happens from 6-6:45 p.m., before the meeting.

“We want to support the idea that James Gordon had brought forward, of taking an official stance against Nestlé’s water taking permit in Aberfolyle,” Meister said of the motive behind the rally. “And we want to show council that this issue is something that is very important to the people of Guelph, and that they can’t just postpone the council meeting and make the opposition go away.”

Ever since Nestlé made an application to renew its permit to take water in Aberfoyle, seeking a 10-year duration on it, the opposition to the company’s Guelph-area operations has grown in intensity.

“People are very passionate about it, and really want to be able to express their passion in a vocal and present way to council,” Meister said.

She said many were surprised when about two weeks ago the province placed a province-wide two-year moratorium on issuing permits for new wells, or increased pumping from existing wells related to operations that bottle and sell water.  

The province is examining current rules to determine if they are adequate to protect and conserve water into the future.

Meister said it appears the issue has gained enough momentum that now it appears the protection of water, the rights to water, and water as part of the public commons “is something that is going to stay in the consciousness of the political sphere.”

There is an opportunity right now for things to change, she added, and she is working towards that eventuality.