Blog | March 09, 2012

Letter to the Editor printed in Edmonton Journal
March 9, 2012Re: "Diverse water panel welcome idea," Editorial, March 1.Thank you for your editorial questioning the University of Alberta's decision not to include Council of Canadians chair Maude Barlow in its new Water Advisory Group.With that editorial, the paper took an important stand, especially in light of what did and did not get said at the panel discussion "Who speaks for water?" held at the university on March 1.Nestle executive Peter Brabeck-Letmathe began his remarks on the panel's title question by claiming that only those who have done "the necessary homework" on the issue should get to speak. As someone who fought for the UN resolution declaring water a human right, Barlow has certainly done her homework. U of A president Indira Samarasekera claimed that the Water Advisory Group will pursue the "best available answer" to its question of how to manage water in the form of "evidence-based solutions" reached through "objective evaluations," and insisted that the university itself takes no stand on the issue. There is, however, no such thing as ideology-free evidence, and the university has already taken a stand by inviting Brabeck-Letmathe to join the group and not inviting Barlow. Include one member in a group, exclude another and you influence what the group can achieve. If the university truly wants its Water Advisory Group to reach the "best available answer" to the question of how to manage the world's water, it should be as eager to include Barlow in the group as it is to include Brabeck-Letmathe. Barlow will keep alive possible discussion of the issue that Brabeck-Letmathe, as the head of a company profiting from the sale of water, may want to cut short. Brabeck-Letmathe contends that the percentage of the world's water currently being bottled is so small and the percentage in public hands so large that the question of whether water - a resource vital to life - should be privatized should not concern us. But the fact is that both he and his company stand to benefit from the privatization and sale of water resources. Barlow, on the other hand, stands for the protection of water as a human right. If Albertans want the best opportunity to determine how to manage this vital resource in ways that will keep Alberta's water in public hands and water for general consumption free from the price-mechanisms and social inequities of capitalist markets, we need Barlow and others like her in the room for all of this group's conversations.By Carolyn Sale, Edmonton

This letter to the editor was published in the Edmonton Journal on March 9, 2012. Read the full letter on the Edmonton Journal website.