An online petition started by a Guelph woman that opposes Nestlé Waters Canada’s request for a 10-year renewal of its permit to take water in Aberfoyle has now garnered nearly 70,000 signatures. Environmental activist Amelia Meister started the Care2 petition to show Glen Murray, Ontario’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, that there is a high level of opposition across Ontario and elsewhere to Nestlé’s water bottling practices here and around the world.
She said a 10-year renewal is far too long, given the volatility of our climate, and the possibility of drought conditions that could negatively effect the availability of drinking water. The company should not be allowed to pump millions of litres of water each day for an entire decade, when the water supply is so vulnerable. It is not a sustainable practice.
Nestlé told GuelphToday in a recent report that it carefully monitors its water-taking operations, and adjusts its water-taking practices according to prevailing climatic conditions and groundwater levels.
Nestlé is the largest foodstuff corporation in the world, with 275,000 employees. It is the world’s 27th largest company.
Nestlé chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe sparked outrage last year when he called the concept of the “public right” to water an extreme view. The statement was widely interpreted as a denial of water as a human right.
Brabeck-Letmathe has since stated that he supports the human right to water, but that it is also a precious resource that must be better managed, better valued, and better preserved.
As of Tuesday afternoon, just over 67,600 people had signed the petition, nearly 35,000 of those from Canada. The numbers stood at 50,000 nine days ago.
Meister was asked why tens of thousands have backed the petition.
“I think Nestle has really angered people in their comment that water is not a human right and the solution to global water issues is privatization,” Meister said Tuesday in an email. “With Nestle profiting on crises like the Indigenous water crisis in Canada and the Flint water crisis in America, it really has people up in arms.”
She said people “care deeply about water” and are becoming more convinced that it must be a human right. It ought not to be privatized and sold for profit, she indicated.
“There is a huge movement in Canada, with organizations such as Council of Canadians, Wellington Water Watchers and many more that work to preserve water as a right,” she added. “I think people respond favourably (to the petition) because they desperately want our government to take water issues seriously.”
She believes the petition could influence the outcome of the permit renewal process. Her petition earlier this year in protest to proposed changes to wolf and coyote hunting regulations, which collected 110,000 signatures, was cited as one reason why changes were not made.
The online petition process, she added, allows for more public comment and participation, and that gives them added weight.
“With increased comments and participation in the process by the general public, there is an increased chance that it will influence the outcome and I certainly hope that it does,” she wrote in the email.
On Sunday, opponents of the selling of water for profit will take part in the Walk for Water. Walkers will gather for a brief rally at Market Square in Guelph at 2 p.m. and then proceed to the Nestlé Waters Canada plant in Aberfoyle. A second rally will be held at the plant at 5:30 p.m.
The event is in support of Save Our Water’s “Water for Life, Not Profit” campaign.
Save Our Water is challenging Nestlé’s work on the Middlebrook well near Elora. The company is looking into the feasibility of pumping water from Middlebrook to bottle in Aberfoyle.