COVID 19 Pandemic is a Teachable Moment

WWW has made the decision to cancel scheduled campaign meetings for what looks like several weeks, if not months, before the spreadof the coronavirus is contained enough to safely again hold public meetings.

We are revising our campaign plans while not being able to hold public meetings. We will have ideas to share with you soon.

Everyone’s immediate priority is containing the spread of the virus while supporting our families, friends, neighbours and coworkers. The coronavirus pandemic also provides lessons and opportunities on how to organize to deal with the climate crisis. The pandemic may create the political conditions to expand public support for action on climate change and ensure water is for life not profit.

This pandemic had forced governments to act quickly in the public interest: The actions of all levels of government in the last weeks are happening at a much faster speed than we see for the climate emergency.  It may yet turn out that important decisions to contain the coronavirus were made too slowly – nonetheless coordinated actions in response to the health crisis are happening very quickly.


Three reasons for the rapid response of government to the pandemic

First, the crisis is visible, local, undeniable and broad in scope. People are getting sick and dying. The spread of the coronavirus in other countries is being reported in real time through a variety of news and social media. The cascading consequences of the pandemic are visible. Social distancing is causing unemployment and social isolation now.  The majority of people in our society live from paycheque to paycheque and are either feeling the impacts now or see that they will feel them soon. We can see that some businesses and industries may not recover from the loss of customers.

Second, federal, provincial and municipal governments are listening to public health officials and implementing their recommendations. Politicians appear to be ‘listening to the science.’

Third, politicians recognize there will be big political consequences if they mismanage this public health crisis.


The pandemic is a ‘teachable moment’

  • The pandemic is visible. It is not an abstract idea based on modelling or events on a faraway time horizon
  • Global events are having visible local impacts now with consequences that ripple out.
  • The disproportionate vulnerability faced by some groups – e.g. homeless, elderly, Indigenous peoples, people with disabilities – is being revealed as systemic, which is increasing social compassion and public demands for action on behalf of these groups.
  • Visible sacrifices are being made by public sector workers. It is evident to all that health care workers are putting their own wellbeing at risk to take care of the public. Public awareness of the value of a wider range of public services - such as care giving, grocery store workers, sanitation workers and more – is also increasing. This is creating social solidarity that people can see and feel
  • People are taking active roles, from shopping for their neighbours to singing with each other from balconies. This gives people strength as well as hope.
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Dispatches from Vittel Day 5 - Report back from Vittel - Public Meeting 7pm, Thursday March 7 in Elora

This is the last of 5 dispatches about the visit to Vittel, France by a delegation from Wellington Water Watchers. (If you would like to read the complete list of dispatches go to our blog here).

Karen Rathwell, Dr. Susan Glasauer (WWW Board members) and Mike Balkwill will be presenting a report back on our visit to Vittel, France, in Elora on Thursday March 7th. The meeting will be held in the Elora United Church, 75 Geddes Street. The meeting begins at 7pm – doors open at 6:30. This meeting is open to the public.

The Vittel dispatches resonated with our many supporters and we received many emails in response. A sample of these responses is below – these comments speak for themselves.

  • Thank you for this! While I have been against Nestlé practices for some time, I admit I was shocked at the revelation of their plan to make tap water undrinkable.  This is appalling and a horror!  Privatizing water is not only about the profit, but about eliminating its use except for by purchase...terrible. Very glad that you're making these efforts on our behalf. Keep on!

  • This is a very revealing story. However, it should not come as a surprise as companies that depend on natural resources will use every means available to advance and protect their access to these resources, it is a tough fight.          KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK.

  • Just signed on as a monthly donor. Keep up the good work

(By the way you too can become a monthly donor by clicking here!)

  • Thanks for the updates. This is very important stuff.  It is good that those of us with more privilege also stand up for those who are much more disadvantaged.

  • How vital and important that WWW is there!!  This global transgression must be exposed. Thank you for your trip and thank you for these updates.  We are standing with you!!

  • Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your fight to save the aquifers of this world!

  • I am deeply grateful for your work. My son (age 14) is very committed to what you are doing and shows it through his actions. He has informed me about some of the companies tied to Nestlé and those products are no longer purchased. This influence has extended to other family members outside of Guelph. Your dispatches are also forwarded to family outside of Guelph. 

  • These dispatches are great - interesting, eye-opening & telling. Thanks so much to all three of you for committing to this work. Connecting the dots has taken on layers of significance & meaning. Onward.

  • I am 100% supportive of measures to prevent the abuse or monopolization of ground water resources.  It makes me quite ill to think that the displaced people in Yemen and Syria (to name but a couple of locations) are desperate for water, a resource that should be freely available to every person on this earth, yet the only solution is for aid groups or government agencies to pay top dollar to Nestlé for bottled water which cost the latter next to nothing. The only thing that will ever come close to equaling such a travesty is to discover that one day people will need to pay for the air they breathe.

    Nestlé is an evil Goliath; it has enormous resources and there are no doubt many governments that could be enticed to declare that tap water is not for drinking.  Imagine, a company headquartered in a nation that declared neutrality and made enormous sums of money by sitting out two world wars, is well on its way to monopolizing the world's best water sources, acquired at little or no cost, with the objective of making everyone captive to buying their bottled water.  Turning such a situation around is nothing short of a Nobel Peace prize undertaking - but it can be done.  It’s going to take an unflinching commitment by many, many groups to work together and it will require some major financial support.

    This trip to Switzerland will hopefully be a big step in helping to shape how WWW goes forward. Big challenge; big opportunity.


P.S. In Dispatch #4 I asked for donations to send to Collectif Eau 88 in Vittel, France to support their fight against Nestlé.  So far, we have received $400 – Thank you!

If you wish to show your solidarity with people in Vittel, France and make a donation please click here now!


Mike Balkwill,

Campaign Director,

Wellington Water Watchers


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Dispatches from Vittel Day 4 - Solidarity with People of Vittel Opposing Nestlé

The leaders of Collectif Eau 88 are grateful to Franklin Frederick and to the Wellington Water Watchers for our solidarity visit. The image below shows a summary of the media generated by the Feb 12th community forum.

The French government is holding consultations on the future of the water situation in Vittel and the Feb 12th meeting was a chance for people in Vittel to organize themselves in advance of the government consultation. The global perspective provided by this forum strengthens their resolve to call upon the French government to Say No To Nestlé.

The solidarity with people fighting Nestlé in Vittel, France and indeed around the world does not end here.

I am making a special appeal today for donations in support of the work of Franklin Frederick and Collectif Eau 88. Your donation today will be sent directly to the campaign to stop Nestlé in Vittel.

Together Wellington Water Watchers will continue to work with Franklin Frederick, Collectif Eau 88. A next step will be to call on Swiss NGO’s and Swiss faith organizations to sponsor a conference in Switzerland to draw attention to Nestlé’s global predatory water practices. The purpose of this is to increase pressure from Swiss media and Swiss parliamentarians on the Swiss government to regulate Nestlé.

When we return to Canada we will meet with Canadian faith and labour organizations to ask them to engage with their counterparts in Switzerland in support of this conference.

In addition

  • Franklin Frederick introduced Tamanna Kohi of the WWW Board to community leaders in Cambuquira, Brazil – and she visited with them several weeks ago over the Christmas break. The recent election of Jair Bolsonaro is a threat to public control of water in Brazil. Tamanna’s visit provides direct communication between WWW and community water protection activists in Brazil.

  • WWW works closely with who provide support to anti-Nestlé campaigns around the world. Fatah Sadaoui, their French campaigner supports recent Collectif Eau 88 activities in Vittel.

  • Wellington Water Watchers is talking with Story of Stuff and their Nestlé anti-to engage leaders of communities in the US fighting Nestlé in this emerging international coalition.

Finally here in Ontario we will continue to press Premier Doug Ford to Say No To Nestlé in Wellington County.

Thank you for your support and attention this week. The donations of supporters like you, as well as the supportive messages sent in the last week in response to these dispatches has been very encouraging to us and to the people of Vittel.

P.S. Please consider making a donation now to the campaign against Nestlé in Vittel, France.


Mike Balkwill, Campaign Director,

Wellington Water Watchers, Feb. 15, 2019

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Dispatches from Vittel Day 3 - Nestlé in Vittel – “It’s déjà vu all over again”!

It’s 6pm Tuesday evening in Contrexéville – a short drive from Vittel and the location of Nestlé’s second bottling plant in the area. I am sitting on a panel looking out at a room of 150 people, standing room only. The crowd is middle-aged and older – few if any younger people.  Local farmers, people working in neighbouring towns and retired people.

Sitting to my right are Dr. Susan Glasauer and Karen Rathwell from the Board of Directors of Wellington Water Watchers. To their right is Franklin Frederick, Brazilian water activist now located in Bern Switzerland. Jean Francois, President of Collectif Eau 88 is to Franklin’s right.  To my left is Bernhard Schmitt, another leader with Collectif Eau 88, who is chairing the meeting. To his left is his son Francois who in addition to being a singer and comedian is translating Karen’s and my presentation to audience. Susan Glasauer speaks French and sits between Karen and I – translating from French ‘on the fly’ - the presentations by other panel members and the comments of members of the audience.

There is one more thing to tell you to set the stage – as the evening discussion unfolds, in content and in emotional tenor – I can’t help but feeling like I am in a Save Our Water community meeting in the Elora Legion Hall! This is the ‘first’ of several “déjà vu’s” this evening.

Bernhard Schmitt opens the meeting. He introduces the Brazilian and Canadian guests to the audience and we are warmly welcomed.

Franklin makes opening remarks and summarizes the analysis of Nestlé’s global water strategy that I summarized in my previous dispatch. Franklin’s comprehensive presentation is peppered with anecdotes from his own experience with Nestlé in Brazil and Switzerland. There are audible gasps when he describes Nestlégate – the spying operation conducted against ATTAC and Franklin – the Swiss based grass roots group critical of Nestlé.

Franklin’s opening presentation is a full 20 minutes – and the audience is attentive and with him the entire time. This is déjà vu # 2. On January 17th, Elora residents listened with rapt attention for 30 minutes as Jan Beveridge presented highlights of an independent hydrogeological study and as lawyer David Donnelly presented in detail the legal strategy Centre Wellington Township can implement to stop Nestlé’s proposed Middlebrook well. People here in France  - as in Elora – care about their water and their community – and are prepared to organize to protect it.

Susan Glasauer introduced this animation (for which we had created French sub-titles) describing Nestlé’s operations in Wellington County and the Say No To Nestlé campaign. Francois read the sub-titles to the audience in a dramatic narration! Dr. Glasauer talked about recent research which makes it clear that it may take up to 100 years for the impact of current water taking to be fully evident – and at which time there may be no chance to remediate.

Karen Rathwell made a passionate speech about how we are all born of water, and of the waters of our mothers and grandmothers. She said it is her role – and the role of all the other mothers and grandmothers in the room - to ensure there is water for their granddaughters.

The rest of the evening was an invigorating back and forth between the audience and the members of the panel.

I was asked to address the question  “How do we make politicians respond to our demands?” I made a 2 minute presentation in English on ‘primary and secondary targets’ (See pg. 8,9 of Campaign Planning Manual) and then had the new experience of  room erupt in excitement in a delayed reaction to the translation.

There was a spontaneous discussion in the audience of candidates for primary target and a quick consensus that President Macron must be the primary target of political pressure. (See here for more information about revealing, but not surprising, relationship between French President Macron and former Nestlé CEO Peter Drabek).

This is déjà vu #3. People are eager to talk about the politics and strategy of social change. Too often I think people are only presented with technical details of ‘the problem’ and policy suggestions for ‘the solution’ without a real conversation about the strategy to create the politics that enables implementation of new and more just solutions.

After the meeting Bernhard Schmitt tells us this was their first community meeting where they talked about the politics of change and the moral and ethical questions posed by Nestlé’s predatory water taking. Bernhard felt in previous meetings they had only talked about the technical issues.

The evening therefore helped move the community to a new level of engagement and empowerment.  This is the last ‘déjà vu of the evening.

The meeting attracted widespread media. The Vittel story has been covered in recent months – but the occasion of international speakers drew the media back to the story. Der Spiegel – the German equivalent of Time magazine – did a 3 page story – published to coincide with our meeting. Multiple television and print media attended the meeting and have published stories this week. (I will attempt a short summary of media coverage in coming days).

This is the third of five special reports that Wellington Water Watchers will send in the next week from meetings in Switzerland and France. In these special reports I will share more about what I learn about the connections between Nestlé water taking in other communities around the world.

Mike Balkwill, Campaign Director

Wellington Water Watchers Feb 14, 2019


P.S. Nestlé Water Canada places ad in Wellington Advertiser that is a deliberate act of mis-direction

Nestlé Waters Canada bought an ad in the Wellington Advertiser in response to media stories that announced our trip to Vittel. The ad says in part  “We have invited the Wellington Water Watchers and Save Our Water…. to meet with us in a safe and open environment to discuss how we can work together to manage and protect the water resources.”

I was thinking of this as near the end of the evening meeting Franklin returned to the discussion of Nestlé’s links to the military. Franklin described the plan ATTAC (Swiss grass roots group) developed to hold a public “International Peoples Tribunal” in Switzerland on Nestlé’s global water strategy. Luciano Romero of Columbia was to be invited to present his testimony at the peoples’ tribunal. Luciano was a trade unionist and former employee of Nestlé’s Colombian subsidiary Cicolac.

Lucian Romero was murdered by paramilitaries in 2005 after Cicolac falsely branded him a guerilla fighter.

Franklin shared with the audience his concern that the person, who infiltrated the ATTAC group on behalf of Nestlé, shared this information in her surveillance reports. Franklin worried that this information contributed to Romero’s murder.

The experience of Franklin and the members of ATTAC who Nestlé spied upon, and the family and friends of Luciano Romero puts the lie to any notion that Nestlé is committed to “meet in a safe and public environment.”

P.P.S. - The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights and the Colombian trade union Sinaltrainal filed a criminal complaint against Nestlé and its senior management alleging Nestlé was complicit in the murder. Switzerland’s prosecutor dismissed the case because it was filed after expiration of the statute of limitations. An appeal of this decision was subsequently rejected by Switzerland’s highest court. See


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Dispatches from Vittel Day 2 - Controlling Water is Controlling Life - Nestlé’s Global Agenda

Introduction - I spent the day in Bern talking with Franklin Frederick about Nestlé’s global water bottling strategy. Franklin is a Brazilian water activist now based in Bern Switzerland. The following is an edited version of a conversation that we had yesterday in Franklin’s home in Bern. A full transcript will be available at a later date.

In this conversation Frederick talks about how he first became involved in organizing against Nestlé water taking. Frederick describes Nestlé’s global water strategy and reveals their initiative to organize the Water Resources Group – a global lobby for water bottling companies. Frederick describes Nestlé’s connections to the military and the necessity and benefits to Nestlé of this relationship. There is a brief description of Nestlé sponsored spying on organizations and activists critical of Nestlé – including Franklin. Finally Franklin’s opinion on way it is important for people in Guelph, Wellington County and Ontario to be in solidarity with struggles of people in other countries who oppose Nestlé’s water bottling.


Mike Balkwill, Campaign Director,

Wellington Water Watchers, February 12, 2019.


Q: Franklin, how did you first become involved in organizing against Nestlé water bottling?

A: I was engaged in the Brazilian movement protecting our water park in the city of Sao Laurenzo, which is a very special place in Brazil, and which was bought by Nestlé in 1999. In this fight I learned a lot. I was responsible for bringing this issue to Switzerland – the Catholic Church in Brazil tasked me with building support with the churches in Switzerland – as this is the home of Nestlé.

I faced lots of pressure from Nestlé including being spied upon when Nestlé hired Securitas (a Swiss private security company) to infiltrate groups in Switzerland critical of Nestlé.

The other thing I learned is that water is the perfect commodity. Everyone needs it. The price only increases with scarcity. So whoever controls water guarantees profits – but also controls the whole development of society. It is not only a question of privatization – in the sense of making people pay for something that actually should be free as it is a gift from nature - it is also a tool of social control. You can dictate the ways a society will go by controlling its water. We need water for personal use. We need water for economic uses. We need water for culture – we need it for everything. So, controlling water is controlling life.


Q: Nestlé has 100 bottling plants around the world. What is Nestlé’s global water strategy?

A: Nestlé’s agenda is mostly about controlling water sources. As global population increases – worldwide demand for water increases. There is a kind of ‘war’ for control of these resources – not just competition between companies, but mostly between companies and countries that own these resources. Canada and Brazil are countries rich in water. So this makes us normal ‘targets’ of Nestlé’s hunger to guarantee their water supply.

Nestlé operates at a whole other level than companies like Coca Cola. In fact Nestlé took the initiative to create the Water Resources Group, which brings together Nestlé, Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, AmBEV – a lobby group which represents almost the entire global bottled water and bottled drinks industry. The International Finance Corporation - a branch of the World Bank responsible for most of the privatization programs of public infrastructure in Africa and Latin America – is also a member of the Water Resources Group.

There are two big global lobby organizations advocating for privatization of water.

  • The World Water Council, which was originally created by companies who seek to privatize sanitation systems.

  • The Water Resources Group which is the bottled water industry counterpart to the World Water Council.

The Water Resources Group has just opened an office in Sao Paulo, Brazil, because the public company SABESP – responsible for water distribution and sanitation in the state of Sao Paulo - is now being privatized.

Bottled water companies do not want to buy SABESP – however they do want to ensure that whoever buys SABESP will reduce the quality of tap water. The objective is for tap water no longer to be used for drinking water – only for showers, cleaning and sanitation. People will then be obliged to buy bottled water for their drinking water. That’s how these lobby groups work together.

It’s a win/win situation for the different type of companies. The companies that purchase public water distribution companies do not have to maintain high water standards – as it will not be intended to be drinking water. And the bottled water companies can sell more product.


Q: You have researched the relationship between Nestlé and the military. Can you describe this relationship and say why you think this relationship exists?

A: The military are there to ensure that resource rich countries like Brazil or Venezuela or Colombia will not use their own resources for their own development but to make clear that these resources will be available for private companies to grab them.

Nestlé is a member of the Atlantic Council – a big US organization that brings together big businesses around NATO. Why is it necessary to create a platform that enables a dialogue between high-ranking directors of companies and the military establishment? This is an interesting question – I cannot see a reason for that unless the military can somehow be helpful in ensuring that resources in countries like mine (Brazil) can be available to companies like Nestlé.


Q: Tell me more about your personal experience of being spied upon by Nestlé.

A: Around 2001 Nestlé hired John Hedley, an ex-MI6 British agent as their head of security. Why does a company that produces baby food, bottled water and chocolate needs someone with the specialized skills of an MI6 agent to be their head of security? This agent was responsible for the spy operation I mentioned earlier. He was also responsible for creating something we call Nestlé’s ‘war room’, where they have immediate global access to any reference to Nestlé in social media and news media – and can act immediately. (See here for more information on Nestlé’s conviction for spying).

If Nestlé can operate like this in Switzerland – what can Nestlé do in countries with less democratic guarantees – in Latin America, Africa or Asia?

The complete story of Nestlé’s espionage is described in the book Secret Manoeuvres in the Dark by Evelinne Lubbers


Q: Why is it important for people in Elora, Guelph and Wellington County to know these things about Nestlé? Why is this important to the strategy of stopping Nestlé’s water bottling in Ontario?

A: Nestlé is too big an adversary to be fought only locally. If you fight Nestlé only in your own community you are assuming it is just a local fight. When it is a just a local fight – then Nestlé can portray the conflict over water as a local ‘misunderstanding’.

The local fight is fundamental but it has to be I think connected to a global fight in the sense of exposing this kind of pattern that repeats itself. It is important to show there are no local small mistakes. These ‘small mistakes’ are repeating themselves on a world scale. Connecting the dots shows how it is a deliberate ‘big mistake’.


Q: Do the efforts to resist Nestlé by people in Wellington County and Ontario help people in other communities around the world to fight Nestlé too?

A: It helps tremendously, because countries like Canada and France are relatively democratic with some guarantees that you can have these kinds of fights without being killed or put under enormous pressure as happens in other countries. It is important to create a solidarity movement with organizations in countries that do not have the same means, the same freedoms to speak out as we do in ours.


Mike Balkwill, Franklin Frederick outside Nestlé HQ in Vevey Switzerland

Mike Balkwill, Franklin Frederick outside Nestle HQ in Vevey Switzerland

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Dispatches from Vittel Day 1 - Special Report: Preparing for “Rencontres Internationales sur l’Eau Bien Commun”, regarding Nestlé water taking in Vittel, France

Karen Rathwell (long time Board member of Wellington Water Watchers) and I arrived yesterday - Sunday Feb 10 - in Geneva, Switzerland. Franklin Frederick of Bern met us in Geneva and took us by train to scenic Vevey, Switzerland, location of Nestlé multinational headquarters. Karen made this brief and important statement outside the Nestlé headquarters: “From Elora to Vittel, Water is for Life, Not Profit!” (click for video)

Franklin is a Brazilian water activist living in Switzerland. Franklin initiated bringing together Collectif eau 88 and Wellington Water Watchers for this international summit Feb 12 on Nestlé water taking  to be held near Vittel, France.

Dr. Susan Glasauer, Associate Professor in the School of Environmental Sciences, University of Guelph will speak at this forum on behalf of Wellington Water Watchers. Dr. Glasauer is a member of WWW Board.

Vittel France may seem like a long way from Wellington County, Ontario. In fact it is part of Nestlé’s strategy to deflect attention from their worldwide operations (100 bottling plants around the world) by referring questions about specific operations to their local representatives.  

Nestlé works hard to cloak the connection between their various water bottling operations around the world. In fact Nestlé water bottling operations are part of a sophisticated global strategy and business model with public relations directed by their head office.

Wellington Water Watchers was invited to Vittel specifically to help connect the dots between the impact of Nestlé operations in Aberfoyle and Hillsburgh (and is proposing for Middlebrook well in Elora) and Vittel, France. In preparation for this trip WWW reached out to our friends at and Story of Stuff to also bring information about Nestlé operations in the US.


Here is what seems to be typical of Nestlé operations in France, Canada, US and Brazil:

  • Nestlé pays nothing for the water they take

  • Nestlé may pay a very small administrative or license fee for a permit to take water – sometimes as low as $200

  • In many communities in the US and Brazil where Nestlé takes water the status of their permits to take water and the conditions that govern those permits are not transparent.

  • There are major differences of opinion between Nestlé, governments and independent experts and community advocates about the ‘sustainability’ of Nestlé’s water taking.

Wellington Water Watchers is here on a fact-finding mission to learn how Nestlé operates in other communities. So far we have learned the following about the Nestlé operation in Vittel:

  • All of the water Nestlé bottles in Vittel is exported to Germany and other countries

  • Nestlé acquires the water for free - Nestlé pays no taxes to the French government on this operation because the water is considered an export product.

  • Nestlé sells 1.5 litre bottles of Vittel water in Germany for 1 Euro each

  • Local residents pay 3 Euros for each cubic meter of water they use

  • Nestlé has been extracting water for bottling in Vittel since 1990, reducing the aquifer by 30cm/year. Experts agree that there is a risk of salinization of the groundwater from excessive extraction by the year 2040.

  • The French government is proposing to address the impending drinking water shortage by building a pipeline from another town for residents of Vittel. The effect of transferring this water by pipeline will be to deplete the surface waters in the area of the neighbouring town. Experts predict that wetlands in neighbouring towns will dry up and water levels in local rivers will drop.

  • Nestlé will continue to extract and bottle Vittel water for export if the pipeline is approved.

If Nestlé will behave this way in Vittel, how can we trust what they say about their water taking in Aberfoyle and Hillsburgh? How can we trust what they propose for Middlebrook well in Elora? How can we trust that the Ontario government will protect water – rather than protect the business interests of corporations like Nestlé?

The fight to protect drinking water is local AND global. As part of the local strategy Wellington Water Watchers demands that Ontario Premier Doug Ford protect drinking water and Say No to Nestlé.

And... if this is how Nestlé behaves in France, and the US - what is Nestlé doing in communities in the global south – Brazil, and South Africa for example – where communities have fewer resources to resist Nestlé?

This is the first of 5 special reports that Wellington Water Watchers will send in the next week from meetings in Switzerland and France. In these special reports I will share more about what I learn about the connections between Nestlé water taking in other communities around the world.


Mike Balkwill

Campaign Director

Wellington Water Watchers

Feb 11, 2019

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Report from 2018 Annual General Meeting of Wellington water Watchers

Wellington Water Watchers is pleased that Eryn Wise agreed to be the speaker at our Annual General Meeting (AGM) on November 21.

Eryn’s speech included specific challenges to Wellington Water Watchers. In our work we talk about protecting our water usually from private corporations, like Nestlé. Eryn reminded us that non-Indigenous people don’t own the water. She also told us of the heavy price that Indigenous peoples pay since countries, like Canada, have declared ownership and extracted resources from the land: 

“This land is not your land. This water is not your water. [Indigenous] people are not your people to control. And I want you to know in case you don’t, that pipelines are killing Indigenous people at an exponential rate…They do not care about our futures, because they do not want us to live. I want you all to leave here knowing that. It’s not a surprise to us that people don’t care about Indigenous people or people of colour because ‘not caring’ has been happening since people showed up.”

“Everyone is fighting Nestlé, everyone wants to protect our water, but you can’t really say ‘our water’ when it’s their future and they have had roots growing out of their feet for millennia. You are doing great and important work but it’s important to support Indigenous organizers”.

Eryn accurately pointed out that the crowd ‘in the room’ at our AGM did not include many Indigenous people or people of colour. The leadership and membership of Wellington Water Watchers is predominantly people who identify as white. There are not many people who participate in WWW activities that identify as Indigenous or as people of colour. 

Eryn tells us it's time to be more than allies but to be accomplices, to support Indigenous organizers, and to find ways to include more Indigenous people and people of colour in our membership and in our leadership:

“As a room full of people, mostly not of colour everyone here who is not Native or a person of colour should be thinking about their allyship and not only how you are going to be an ally but how you are going to be an accomplice because the time for allyship is passed. …. Holding up a sign or just attending a march is not enough.”

We agree.

We believe the impacts of climate change, including water insecurity, will have a disproportionate impact on marginalized communities. We also recognize that pollution, extractive industries, waste management and other environmental hazards have  already impacted people of colour, people who are poor, and Indigenous peoples more than communities where white people are the majority.

We also believe that water has a special power to bring communities together towards the realization of environmental, social and climate justice.

In 2018, we began to commit the Wellington Water Watchers to become better allies with Indigenous peoples and racialized communities in water protection and the promotion of environmental justice.

We participated in several activities in the last year to develop a better understanding of water issues in Indigenous communities. We supported and participated in the following:

  • Sacred River Walk as part of the Two Rivers Festival
  • Two Row On The Grand
  • All Nations Grand River Water Walk
  • Community conversation led by Nancy Rowe, Mississauga of the New Credit
  • Community meeting of the “Indigenous Water Tools” research project, held at Six Nations
  • Meeting with the Six Nations Land and Development Committee to discuss shared issues regarding Nestlé
  • Six Nations Youth demonstration at Nestlé Waters Canada location
  • Inviting Eryn Wise to speak at AGM (Click here to watch her full presentation)

Our participation in these activities was intentional and intended to help us develop relationships and the understanding necessary to help us be good allies. We will continue these efforts and we invite you to help us plan and carry out the next steps. 

Here are some ideas we are thinking about for 2019:

  • Continue participation and support of the Two Row Paddle and the All Nations Grand River Walk planned
  • Continue to offer to be allies to people in Six Nations and Mississaugas of the New Credit
  • Organize a series of public presentations/events led by Indigenous people
  • Offer discussion groups where people who are not Indigenous can share questions and experiences and make plans on how, as members of Wellington Water Watchers, we can become good allies and accomplices to Indigenous peoples
  • Organize book clubs or reading circles

You can share your thoughts with us and help develop a plan by clicking here and completing this short survey.

Wellington Water Watchers has also begun outreach to better understand water issues in racialized communities. We will have more to tell you about that soon.

Thank you for being on the journey to protect water with Wellington Water Watchers.

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Wellington Water Watchers held out as good example in Environmental Commissioners’ Report

In the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario’s annual report released today, we are held out as a good example!

"...Following the filing of the appeal, two non-profit non-government organizations, Wellington Water Watchers and the Council of Canadians (the “NGOs”), applied for and were granted party status in the appeal, meaning they were entitled to make their own submissions on any potential changes to the permit..."

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