Blog | February 29, 2012

Public Interest Alberta has signed onto an open letter to University of Alberta President Indira Samarasekera, joining more than 70 prominent organizations from more than 20 countries. The letter calls on the university to reverse its decision to award an honorary degree to Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Nestle Chairman, and instead “that other voices be added which better reflect the importance of water as a commons, human right and public trust.” The letter and full list of signatories is included below.
See the media release from the Council of Canadians below. Or visit the Council of Canadians website.MEDIA RELEASEFor Immediate Release
February 29, 2012

U of A appointment and degree for Nestle Chairman facing international backlash

Over 70 organizations from more than 20 countries condemn Brabeck-Letmathe honorary degree

 Within 24 hours of University of Alberta President Indira Samarasekera publicly claiming that “as far as I'm concerned there is one group that is upset and that's the Council of Canadians” over the University granting Nestlé Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe an honorary degree and his name being considered as part of the External Advisory Board of the new Water Initiative, a massive international backlash is taking shape.In an open letter to the university president, more than 70 prominent organizations from more than 20 countries are calling on the University to reverse its decision and instead “that other voices be added which better reflect the importance of water as a commons, human right and public trust.” The letter and full list of signatories is included below.The organizations include Public Services International (which represents more than 20 million workers, represented by 650 unions in 148 countries and territories), Greenpeace Canada, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Sierra Club of Canada, the Alberta Federation of Labour, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Council of Canadians, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, the Canadian Union of Public Employees Alberta, and Public Interest Alberta.Other organizations in Canada which have signed the letter include the Water Commission of the Union of Ontario Indians, Coalition Eau Secours! (Quebec), Earthroots, Edmonton Friends of the North Environmental Society, Indigenous Environmental Network, INFACT Canada, Manitoba Wildlands, Mother Earth Water Walk, Ontario Native Women's Association, Polaris Institute, People’s Health Movement of Canada. International organizations have also signed the letter from the UK, USA, Germany, France, Kenya, Mexico, Norway, Belgium, South Africa, Cataluña, Malaysia, Uruguay, Egypt, Luxembourg, Togo, Nigeria, Italy, Ecuador, and Haiti.“This should put to rest the notion that there’s not much opposition to this ill-conceived decision,” says Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow. “The University of Alberta should reverse its decision to grant Nestlé’s Brabeck-Letmathe a degree and a position of influence in water policy, before bringing the institution into disrepute.”While the university claims that the honorary degree will honour those who have contributed to “the preservation, distribution and management of one of humanity’s most vital resources: water,” the reality is that Nestlé is one of the biggest global voices pushing for the privatization and commodification of water worldwide, is the largest player in the bottled water industry and is depleting aquifers in communities throughout North America to bottle and sell.Nestlé is the target of global boycotts for its marketing of breast milk substitutes in violation of international standards, has a long list of labour violations in countries all over the world, and is currently involved in a court case in which Nestlé has admitted it hired agents to spy on the activist group ATTAC.The Council continues to receive additional signatories to the letter.In addition to these groups, thousands of people have now contacted the university demanding it revoke the honorary degree to Peter Brabeck-Letmanthe, pointing to Nestlé’s appalling corporate record. A rally is planned for March 1 at 2:00 pm at the Timms Centre for the Arts, where Mr. Brabeck-Letmanthe will receive the honour.-30- For more information or to arrange interviews:Dylan Penner, Media Officer, Council of Canadians, 613-795-8685, [email protected] Harris, Prairies Regional Organizer, Council of Canadians, 780-233-2528, [email protected]


Click here to download the letter as a PDF.Indira Samarasekera
Office of the President
3-1 University Hall
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2J9 Dear President Samarasekera,We the undersigned are extremely concerned to hear that the University of Alberta has chosen to grant an honorary degree to Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, former CEO and current chairman of Nestlé. We are even more dismayed to learn that the University is considering including Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe on the external advisory board for the University of Alberta’s planned water initiative. Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe has been a lead voice in promoting water markets and pricing and has stated publicly that the idea that water is a human right is “extreme.” During his tenure as CEO and chair Nestlé has become one of the most boycotted companies on the planet for aggressively marketing baby milks in violation of international standards, as well as over accusations of widespread labour violations.Appointing Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe to a position on the advisory board of the University’s water initiative would give undue credibility and an important platform for his views, and we believe this would be harmful to the hundreds of millions of people around the world who do not have access to clean water.On July 28, 2010, the United Nations General Assembly recognized water as a human right, and we are calling on the University of Alberta to respect this historic resolution by not giving Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe a public and respected platform for views which impede the implementation of this fundamental human right. If you choose to appoint Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe, the advisory board of this potentially important initiative will have lost its legitimacy, and the reputation of all on the board will be harmed before the initiative is launched.We ask that Brabeck-Letmathe not be considered for a position on the advisory board and that other voices be added which better reflect the importance of water as a commons, human right and public trust.Signed, Gil McGowanAlberta Federation of LabourCanada Asociación de Usuarios del Agua de Saltillo (AUAS)Mexico Christiane HansenAQUATTAC, European ATTAC WatergroupsEurope Javier EchaideATTAC-ArgentinaBuenos Aires, Argentina Patti Rundall OBEBaby Milk ActionUnited Kingdom Dorothea HaerlinBerlin Water TableGermany Dr.Krishan Bir ChaudharyBharatiya Krishak Samaj (Indian Farmers Organization)New Delhi, India Bottled Water Free CommunitiesCanada Asbjørn WahlCampaign for the Welfare StateNorway Bruce CampbellCanadian Centre for Policy AlternativesCanada 
Paul MoistCanadian Union of Public EmployeesCana
da Marle RobertsCanadian Union of Public Employees AlbertaCanada Patricia A SiemenCenter for Earth JurisprudenceUSA Patrick BondCentre for Civil Society Environmental Justice ProjectDurban, South Africa Isaac RojasCOECOCEIBA-Amigos de la Tierra Costa RicaCosta Rica Véronique RigotChargée de plaidoyer Environnement & DéveloppementBelgium Coalición de Organizaciones Mexicanas por el Derecho al Agua (COMDA)Mexico Jean Pierre DebourdeauLe Collectif Eau Côte d'orFrance Jean-Claude OLIVALa Coordination EAU Île-de-FranceParis, France Dave ColesCommunications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of CanadaCanada Consumers Association of PenangMalaysia Maude BarlowCouncil of CanadiansCanada Rebecca SommerEarthPeoplesGlobal Network of Indigenous Peoples Josh GarfinkelEarthrootsCanada David J ParkerEdmonton Friends of the North Environmental SocietyCanada Joanne RobertsonEmpty Glass For WaterCanada Jaume Delclòs AyatsEnginyeria Sense FronterasCatalunya Luis Isarra DelgadoFederación Nacional de Trabajadores del Agua Potable del Perú (FENTAP)Peru Darcey O'CallaghanFood and Water WatchUSA Gabriella ZanzanainiFood & Water EuropeBelgium Jonas HolmqvistForeningen for Internasjonale Vannstudier(Association for International Water Studies)Oslo, Norway Friends of the Earth MalaysiaMalaysia Carleen PickardGlobal ExchangeUSA Yossi CadanGreenpeace CanadaCanada Dr. Samia Galal SaadHigh Institute of Public HealthAlexandria, Egypt Tom BK GoldtoothIndigenous Environmental NetworkCanada/USA Elisabeth SterkenINFACT Canada/IBFAN North AmericaCanada Maryse ArendtInitiativ LiewensufankLuxembourg Sena ALOUKAJeunes Volontaires pour l'EnvironnementLomé, Togo Julius ApaleKenya Local Government Workers UnionKenya Ayodele AkeleLabour, Health and Human Rights Development CentreLagos, Nigeria Giosue De SalvoMani Tese ONGItaly Gaile Whelan EnnsManitoba WildlandsCanada Josephine MandaminMother Earth Water WalkCanada Mujer y Medio AmbienteMexico Belinda PhippsNCT (The UK's Largest Charity for Parents)United Kingdom Kum-Kum BhavnaniNothing Like ChocolateUSA Adriana MarquisioWater ActivistUruguay Cesar Cardena RamirezObservatorio Ciudadano de Servicios PublicosEcuador Josephine MandaminOntario Native Women's AssociationCanada Daniel MossOur Water CommonsUSA Camille ChalmersPAPDAHaiti Tony ClarkePolaris InstituteCanada Maija KagisPeople’s Health Movement of CanadaCanada Bill Moore-KilgannonPublic Interest AlbertaCanada David BoysPublic Services InternationalFrance (International) Red de Género y Medio AmbienteMexico John BennettSierra Club of CanadaCanada Walaa HirzallahSierra Club-MontrealCanada Richard Cellarius, Ph.D.International Vice PresidentSierra Club US/Sierra Club Canada Meena RamanThird World NetworkMalaysia Josephine MandaminUnion of Ontario Indians Water CommissionCanada Christiane HansenWasser Allianz MünchenBürgerhand, Germany Trude Malthe ThomassenWater Movement NorwayNorway Ellen F. MurthaWomen’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Santa Cruz BranchUSA Kristy WrightWorld Development MovementUnited Kingdom Jean-Yves McGeeCoalition Eau Secours!Québec, Canada Serigne Sarrla défense des droits de l'eau et de l'assainissement(ADDEA)Senegal James OlsonFlow for WaterUSA Nikhil AzizGrassroots InternationalUSA Marcella OliveraRed Interamericana por la Defensa y Derecho al AguaLas Americas Helena PaulEcoNexusUK (International)   cc: Linda HughesUniversity of Alberta Chancellor Douglas GossChair, Board of Governors Rory TigheStudents' Union President Farid IskandarStudents' Union VP External Raphael Lepage FortinUndergraduate Board of Governors Representative