Activists Maude Barlow and Meera Karunananthan of the Council of Canadians criticize their country’s Prime Minister for positioning “himself as a champion of maternal and child health at this year’s G8 and G20 meetings” on the one hand, while on the other hand refusing to recognize water as a human right.
What Stephen Harper fails to acknowledge is that women need greater control over the factors that contribute to their health and well-being. Charity-based models like aid packages are not sufficient.
Poor women in the global South have borne the brunt of neoliberal economic policies that have placed profits for transnational corporations above the environment and human health. They need international support for strong public services and healthy environments.
Take water for example. Canada has prevented the recognition of water as a human right and promotes the privatization of water services while Canadian mining companies destroy watersheds throughout the world. This has disproportionately affected poor women.
After stressing that women and girls are more adversely affected when access to water is restricted, they add:
While several countries are working to have water recognized as a human right through a covenant at the UN, the Canadian government has opposed it. Such a covenant would provide a legal tool for communities that are denied access.
Yet Canada has voted against resolutions to officially enshrine water as a human right at several key UN meetings.
Canada is also a strong proponent of water privatization. It funds and plays an active role within the Public Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility which promotes the privatization of drinking water and sanitation systems around the world.
Canada also directly invests in private water through pension funds.
Yet experiences around the world show that private water has denied women their basic needs. [..] A recent report published by the National Network on Environments and Women’s Health highlights the disproportionate impacts of water privatization on women.
Barlow and Karunananthan claim that Canadian mining companies “are notorious for their disregard of the environment and human health”.
In Mexico, for example, 87 per cent of the mining projects are run by Canadian mining companies that continue to destroy land and contaminate water supplies despite massive protests by farmers, indigenous communities and environmentalists.
Groups like Mining Watch and the Council of Canadians are hoping Bill C-300, a new bill that passed a narrow vote in the House of Commons in April 2009, will make Canadian extractive industries accountable for their actions abroad.
Source: Chronicle Herald, 28 Apr 2010