Selling Out Resistance

by Amelia Meister

Behind closed doors, shortly before COP21 in Paris, the Alberta NDP government met with the leaders of four major tar sands oil producers and four major Non-Governmental Organization (NGOs) that oppose them. What came out of this meeting was a pathetic agreement between all parties that touts “sustainable development” of the tar sands.

The NGOs represented were Equiterre, ForestEthics, the Pembina Institute and Environmental Defence. If you don’t know about these NGOs then let me put them into perspective. ForestEthics, in 2014, spent 1.5 million dollars on their anti-tarsands campaigns, the most of any of their campaigns. In 2012, major social justice lawyer Clayton Ruby joined the organization to push it into the limelight for the good work that it was doing against the tar sands. In short, these are major NGOs with significant resources and support bases. These NGOs have been one of many vocal thorns in the side of tarsands development reaching a wide audience through radio and print ads that more grassroots groups couldn’t afford.

However, what was once direct opposition to any development of the tar sands has become a support for a new agreement with oil conglomerates. The agreement between the Alberta NDPs and the oil companies, supported by these four NGOs is a cap on emissions and development. However, the cap is forty percent greater than current development and emissions. This is hardly a revolutionary deal. Anti-pipeline and anti-tarsands activism, including actions from these four NGOs, has slowed down investment and development in the tar sands and their affiliated pipelines. I wonder, with this new endorsement of “sustainable development”, how these NGOs will continue to be a voice of opposition to the tar sands. If all opposition continued to present a united resistance, development could have been slowed even further, instead of capped at something greater than it is now.

It is jeopardizing to the anti-­tarsands and anti-pipeline movement when the more mainstream view of what is possible consists of “sustainable development” and creating relationships with oil companies for “workable solutions”. Resistance to the tar sands cannot coincide with collaborating with oil companies. There is no such thing as sustainable development of the tar sands. The only sustainable option is for them to cease to exist, something that these NGOs have apparently forgotten. Any development of the tar sands is destructive not only to the delicate boreal forest ecosystem but to the indigenous nations affected by the pollution and deforestation. There was no consultation in this agreement with the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. These NGOs claim some sort of solidarity with Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island and yet have no problem negotiating a secret deal with oil corporations and government without any consultation. This is yet another perpetuation of the broken colonial systems that allow the tar sands to continue. While it is not surprising that this happened, the non-profit industrial complex continues to perpetuate the patterns of capitalistic and colonial ecological destruction. We must, then, continue direct action, in solidarity with Indigenous peoples, to apply the pressure that these NGOs have ceased to offer.


 

Amelia Meister
Amelia Meister is a poet, healer and radical single mother. She believes in working hard, loving fiercely and grieving deeply. Her writing appears in a monthly column in the Guelph Mercury and her words have been shared on many stages across Canada.

Water For Life, Not for Profit

The Local Fight Against Nestle & The Privatization of Water 

By Amelia Meister

In Aberfoyle, just 5km outside of Guelph Nestle Waters Canada is quietly drawing millions of litres of water per day, without a permit. As surprising as this may sound, this is well within current government law. Current law allows Nestle to draw water on an expired permit, as long as they have applied for a new permit. The most surprising, however, is that there is no time limit for how long they can draw water on the expired permit before a new permit is issued.

In a time of intense drought, where the Grand River Conservation Authority has issued a Level 2 drought restriction and the City of Guelph is on Level 2 water restrictions (the highest they can be), everyone else is tightening their belt and doing their part for water conservation but Nestle goes on drawing hundreds of millions of litres of water a year.

Not only that but Nestle pays three dollars and seventy one cents per million litres they draw. Compare that with Guelph’s water rate, where we would be paying about three thousand dollars for the same amount of water. Nestle pays next to nothing for the water they draw and then sells it back for over one dollar per litre.

This is a blatant stealing of water, happening right under our noses. Nestle plays their broken record of “we are within our legal rights” and the government says that there is nothing they can do but wait for the application process.

However, this fight is about more than permits and fees. This is a fight about the privatization and commodification of water. This is a fight about who has the right to water.

Nestle argues that without bottled water people would go thirsty and not have access to water. The government argues that Nestle has the right to draw water because they apply for the permit and it doesn’t care what Nestle does with the water afterwards. However, this country has the ability to create and maintain drinking and sanitation facilities and we should not need bottled water. While it is true that there are 132 boil water advisories in First Nations across Canada, these are less of a testament to the need for bottled water and more of a statement of this country’s blatant disregard for First Nations lives.

Water should not be sold. We need water to live. Without it we would die within 100 hours or less. It is not up for sale to line the pockets of multinational corporations that promote violence all across the world.

By giving water to Nestle the province is stealing from future generations, endangering their water security and the water security of the entire region. It is failing to protect a vital resource that should be conserved for the public, not for the private interests of Nestle.

There is, fortunately, intense public backlash against Nestle and the government’s current response to water drawing in the province. In media all across the country, this issue is gaining traction. Locally, Wellington Water Watchers has been campaigning tirelessly to educate about the importance of tap water as well as opposing Nestle in governmental processes.

As the resistance to Nestle increases there will be more direct actions bringing the issue of the privatization and commodification of water to the forefront of everyday consciousness. More and more citizens and organizations are working to fight for our waters.

Everyone, right now, can do their part by boycotting Nestle, especially their water products, sharing all articles about Nestle on social media (this encourages more media coverage as media outlets see their articles being shared) and talking to your friends and neighbours about water protection.

To connect with Wellington Water Watchers go to www.wellingtonwaterwatchers.ca


Amelia Meister
Amelia Meister is a poet, healer and radical single mother. She believes in working hard, loving fiercely and grieving deeply. Her writing appears in a monthly column in the Guelph Mercury and her words have been shared on many stages across Canada.