Meet the 13-Year-Old Taking On Bottled Water

AlterNet/By Maude Barlow, published Sept. 6, 2012

We should be encouraging the youth in our society to do exactly what Robyn is doing — engaging in local politics, acting to protect the environment and questioning the world around her.
In the last year, municipalities across Ontario and the rest of the country have begun taking a much-needed stand to protect local water sources. Since  World Water Day  in 2011, nine municipalities across Canada have become Blue Communities with many well on their way.

Blue Communities  are municipalities that adopt a water commons framework by: banning the sale of bottled water in public facilities and at municipal events, recognizing water as a human right, and promoting publicly financed, owned and operated water and waste-water services.

The success of the Blue Communities project in Ontario can be mainly attributed to Robyn Hamlyn who has met with 18 mayors and councillors. She talks about the environmental impacts of bottled water, the preposterous amount of profit bottled water companies make off communities’ lakes and streams and the stricter standards with which tap water is regulated. People who hear Hamlyn speak are captivated by her charm, passion and foresight to think long term about our water sources. And the incredible part of this success story is that Hamlyn is only  13 years old .

Her success has not only caught the attention of mayors, city councillors, environmentalists and media but it has also caught the attention of industry and organizations that believe water should be sold for profit. Hamlyn’s determination and effectiveness has provoked responses from Nestlé and Enviroment Probe, an organization that promotes the sale of water as a commodity.

John Challinor, Director of Corporate Affairs for Nestlé, has written letters to local newspapers saying there are other initiatives that the 13-year-old and others “can and should focus on to help preserve, protect and strengthen our water systems that are more effective than targeting bottled water.” More recently, Essie Solomon, an intern for  Environment Probe , wrote an article in the  Financial Post , chiding municipalities for taking “their advice from a 13-year-old.” It was shocking to read Environment Probe’s attack on Hamlyn who has been volunteering her free time to meet with municipal councils across Ontario to talk about the impact of bottled water on current water sources, climate change and social justice.

We should be encouraging the youth in our society to do exactly what Robyn is doing — engaging in local politics, acting to protect the environment and questioning the world around her. Solomon, whose article is condescendingly titled ” Don’t bottle 13-year-old’s water wisdom ,” would do well to pay attention to Hamlyn’s work rather than toe the line of an organization that promotes the sale of water for profit.

It’s also insulting to mayors and councillors to imply they do not examine critically the information presented to them. Not only is Hamlyn dispelling important myths about bottled water but she is also raising important issues that Canada is facing.

We believe municipal governments and other public bodies should not spend public funds providing bottled water at meetings or events, when a cheaper and more sustainable public alternative is readily available on tap. It simply doesn’t make financial or environmental sense.

Municipalities are at a crossroads and face pressing infrastructure needs in the wake of budget cuts and conditional funding from the Harper government. The Harper government is targeting water and wastewater services for privatization. PPP Canada explicitly promotes privatization of public services by only allocating the $1.2 billion under the P3 Canada Fund to municipalities that let corporations deliver water and wastewater, transportation and communications services on a for-profit basis.

The Harper government has shut down public debate on many critical water issues and amended environmental legislation that will reverberate for generations to come. So we are heartened to see municipalities take on critical water issues and provide forums for much needed debate and it is in them that we place our hope.

The Blue Communities Project is a joint initiative of the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). This project builds on a decade of Water Watch work in coalition with many other groups to protect public water services and challenge the bottled water industry.  Click here  to learn more about the Blue Communities Project.

First Nation launches constitutional challenge to Shell tar sands expansion

  MONTHLY REVIEW                    

Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation spokesperson Eriel Deranger speaks out against the oilsands at a recent event in Vancouver.

by David P. Ball
Indian Country Today October 5, 2012

A First Nation whose land sits in the heart of the Alberta oil sands has ramped up its legal battle against the vast industrial development, which has generated controversy because of its massive carbon footprint, untreated tailings ponds and at least three proposed pipelines: Keystone XL, Kinder Morgan and Enbridge‘s Northern Gateway.

The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) on October 1 launched a constitutional challenge based in Treaty 8 alleging that the provincial government and the energy giant Shell Canada, which is looking to expand its Jackpine oil sands mine in the band’s traditional territories, have failed to adequately consult them and thus have in effect violated their treaty rights to use their land traditionally.

The challenge, submitted to the review panel that is evaluating the proposal, calls for mandatory consultation with First Nation treaty signatories. It also demands that their right to access their territories for hunting, trapping, harvesting and other traditional uses be honored. The Chipewyan allege that the Jackpine expansion, by damaging the environment, would prevent them from engaging in those activities and resources and thus violate the treaty.

Treaty 8, which forms the basis for ACFN’s constitutional challenge, is a historic agreement between the Crown and indigenous nations that promised aboriginal people the right to use their traditional lands and natural resources, and to self-governance. The ACFN is hoping to ”set new precedents that may mean changes to the regulatory process,” the band said in a statement.

“Consultation and accommodation—and the way it’s being done—has become shady deals, and coercion does not encompass the idea of free, prior and informed consent,” ACFN spokesperson Eriel Deranger told Indian Country Today Media Network. “The communities here have been bullied—by industry, a pro-industry provincial government and a pro-industry federal government—to just shut up and take what we can get out of a deal.”

Shell’s proposal—already facing a separate ACFN lawsuit to halt or alter it—would see the Jackpine project increase production every day by 100,000 barrels. But the company must first complete a review that begins on October 29, and ACFN says that the 31,429-acre disturbance area of the mine would devastate part of the culturally important Muskeg River, which is where the nation conducts most of its traditional hunting, trapping and harvesting activities.

“What are the costs of pushing the industry through?” Deranger asked. “We’re talking about doubling production in the tar sands. We’re already having problems with the current pace of development. Doubling it is psychotic. Some people think the tar sands and First Nations people can coexist, [but] I don’t know how you could possible rip up thousands of kilometers of boreal forest and traditional territories, de-water, poison and contaminate river systems, and consider that a plausible way for coexistence?”

But Shell insisted that it has, in fact, consulted the First Nation repeatedly, and that it does respect ACFN’s treaty rights.

“Shell has engaged extensively with ACFN over the last 15 years,” spokesperson David Williams told The Globe and Mail. “We’re aware of their concerns around Treaty 8, and our door remains open.”

Deranger acknowledged that some aboriginal people are divided over the benefits of the oil sands (or what its opponents call tar sands) in which a thick oil product, bitumen, is extracted from the earth in an energy-intensive mining and refining process.

“There are First Nations who think the tar sands are great,” Deranger admitted. “People have jobs. People now can afford to take their kids to Edmonton to go to the dentist. These are luxuries for people. But we have to start weighing the costs.”

Those costs—hundreds of toxic tailings ponds, open pit mines, significant emissions and polluted rivers across a giant swathe of Alberta—have not been properly addressed with ACFN, Deranger says.

“How will they potentially mitigate the impacts on traditional and treaty rights from their proposed expansion project in the oil sands?” she asked. “Industry isn’t meeting those standards. We’re not going to make any deals with you anymore. We’re going to fight your projects tooth and nail through a process that already exists.”

Mi’kmaq to Obstruct Traffic to Fight Oil and Gas Exploration at Lake Ainslie

First Nations call for a complete halt to drilling in Cape Breton


Link to Original Article

Ginny Marshall says that although oil and gas exploration in Cape Breton would benefit her economically, the risk of freshwater contamination is too great.PHOTO: BEN SICHEL

AULD’S COVE, NS—Mi’kmaq people from Cape Breton and the Nova Scotia mainland are preparing to set up a “partial blockade” of the Trans-Canada Highway in Auld’s Cove, on the mainland side of the Canso Causeway, the access point to Cape Breton.

By 1:30 yesterday afternoon, about 25 people had gathered, setting up flags and signs, and organizing a teepee and food for the warriors and their supporters.

The blockade is in opposition to exploratory oil and gas drilling by PetroWorth Resources, scheduled to begin later this year on the shore of Lake Ainslie in western Cape Breton.

Peter Bernard (front row left), Ginny Marshall (front row centre-right), Emmett Peters (back row far right) and other Mi’kmaq Warriors and supporters at the site of today’s partial blockade of the Trans-Canada Highway at Auld’s Cove, NS. PHOTO:BEN SICHEL

“We’re going to be slowing the traffic down to a bare stop,” said Ginny Marshall, pipefitter and mother of four from Potlotek (Chapel Island) on Cape Breton. “But we’ll be allowing people to go through,” while handing out information and pamphlets, she explained. “We have to make it known why water is sacred.”

Mi’kmaq communities—andmany non-Indigenous residents around Lake Ainslie—have been clear in theiropposition to exploratory drilling around the watershed, saying that no amount of money is worth risking the pristine water resources that Lake Ainslie supports.

“I’m a pipefitter and I would benefit from this type of job,” said Marshall, referring to the development the province says is necessary to the economically depressed region. “But…I’ve seen all the damages that it does…I cannot tell my children, my child…I didn’t try. I let this go. I knew they were going to destroy the water…and money was too important.”

Emmett Peters of Paq’tnkek (Afton) emphasized the importance of the action for future generations.

“I don’t know if you’re familiar with the 1752 treaty, [which was affirmed in the 1999] Marshall Decision, where we’re allowed to hunt and fish. So they thought about us 300 years previous. That’s how strong that treaty was,” said Peters.

“So now what we’re trying to do is leave something for our children…maybe all it could be is fresh water.”

A ceremony is planned for this morning at the blockade site, to which all people are invited.

“We’re going to put up a teepee and we’re going to have a fire, drummers are going come in and drum, sing the honour song and we’re going to have one of our elders say an opening prayer just so everything goes good,” said Peters yesterday. “We’re leading, but it’s for all human beings.”

Organizers of the action are expecting supporters from Paq’tnkek, Eskasoni, Waycobah, Membertou and Potlotek First Nations. They are also expecting non-Indigenous supporters from the Green Party, Protect Lake Ainslie and the Margaree Environmental Association.

Peter Bernard, a Chief of the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society from Waycobah, estimated this action will last two days.

“We’re trying to do this as peaceful as possible,” said Marshall. But she, Peters and Bernard added that they will not give up if the partial blockade doesn’t affect the changes they are looking for: a complete halt on any oil and gas exploration or drilling at Lake Ainslie.

“If they do drill that [exploratory] well, what’s going to stop them from fracking?” said Paul. “It’s going to cost them millions of dollars to drill that one hole. And just leave it? I don’t think so.”

Marshall said that if the traffic slowdown doesn’t succeed in stopping PetroWorth’s well, a full blockade will be organized.

“We will take your time…we understand your time is your money,” said Marshall. “If no other way is gonna put a stop to this, this is our last resort.”

“We’re so lucky to have a place so safe in the world compared to other places,” said Marshall. “Blue gold is going to be the next commodity…just like oil, it’s gonna be our water, because water is a key element to life.”

PetroWorth Resources could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.

Moira Peters lives and bikes in Halifax. Ben Sichel is a teacher and writer, and editor for the Halifax Media Co-op, where this article was originally published.

US First Nations Present Obama with Mother Earth Accord Opposing XL Pipeline

Rosebud Sioux Nation President Rodney Bordeaux

US and Canadian Indigenous Peoples United To Stop Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline

Monday, December 5, 2011

Washington DC-A delegation of US Tribal leaders gathered together in Washington DC, during the third annual White House Tribal Leaders Summit to call on President Obama to reject a presidential permit for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The leaders presented President Obama with the “Mother Earth Accord” that outlines unique US Tribal and First Nations concerns over Keystone XL, Alberta Tar Sands, the heavy haul in Idaho and Montana, and presented a copy of the Academy Award Nominated Documentary film called “Pipe Dreams”

The 1,700-mile proposed Transcanada Keystone XL pipeline has been mired in controversy since its inception and poses a significant threat to tribal water quality, public health, and cultural heritage in both the United States and Canada.  In Alberta, extraction of tar sands oil has already been linked to a 30% elevated rate of rare cancers and autoimmune diseases in First Nations communities downstream from the project.

President Steele of Oglala Sioux Nation stated, “I will stand against the Keystone XL pipeline as long as it threatens to contaminate the Mni Wiconi water pipeline and threatens the clean drinking water and health of the Oglala people.

The Mother Earth Accord, developed this past September at the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Emergency Summit, demonstrates the unity among the Tribes on both side of the border and the State Department’s failure hold meaningful consultations with US tribes and treaty rights violations. Over twenty Canadian First Nations and US Tribes, as well as private landowners, private citizens, environmental NGO’s, Indigenous peoples organizations and political parties including the New Democratic Party of Canada, the official opposition of the federal Canadian Government, have endorsed it.

According to Chairman Rodney Bordeaux of the Rosebud Sioux Nation, ”I sat next to President Obama, and I asked him to not sign the Presidential Permit, and I feel that he listened to my concerns seriously. I stand with my brothers and sisters on both sides of the border in opposition to this proposed pipeline.”

“While we applaud President Obama’s reaction to the concerns of Tribes, land owners and civil society we are still greatly concerned that the administration has only delayed the decision. We have supported this bi-national delegation of First Nations and Tribal leaders to come to Washington DC to tell President Obama an outright denial of the Presidential permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline is the moral path forward.” Said Marty Cobenais, US Pipeline Campaigner for the Indigenous Environmental Network.

The Indigenous Environmental Network and our allies will continue to support the leadership and grassroots members of First Nations and US Tribes in their opposition Keystone XL and other initiatives that would violate the treaty rights and the human and ecological health of our peoples, lands and way of life.

link to article:


For More information:

US Pipeline Campaigner-Marty Cobenais or call (Cell) 218 760 6632

Canadian Tar Sands Campaigner-Clayton Thomas-Muller or call (Cell) 613 297 7515

To Read Mother Earth Accord-

Youtube links to December 1 2011 Press Event at National Press Club:

New Brunswick: Police and Private Harassment of Anti-Frackers

Shale gas opponents face intimidation

by One Straw Revolution, 10/10/2011

Stephanie Merrill and the NB Media Co-op is reporting that the RCMP and private security firms are placing anti-fracking groups and members under close surveillance and laying criminal complaints against them, while private security firms are harassing ant-fracking protesters.

Shale gas protesters around the province are learning what happens when they speak out publicly against something they feel strongly about. They are being flagged, tagged and targeted – by industry, government and the authorities. While the public heat has been turned up on the provincial government’s plan to explore for shale gas around the province, so too has the security in rural communities and their own government condemning protesters as violent criminals.

At planned events, the police and RCMP security has noticeably increased. According to Sgt. Daniel Landry, of the Codiac RCMP, it’s part of operations for the RCMP to cover large demonstrations. Along with accompanying protesters on march routes, the RCMP also record the goings-on during large demonstrations.

Many people have observed private security and investigative firms following protesters at planned events and in their communities. G4S, a large multinational security firm with 25,000 employees across Canada, followed behind the frACTION Moncton March in a marked vehicle. Securitas, a security firm hired by SWN Resources while doing seismic work in many communities have been also monitoring people.

All this has left many rural New Brunswickers feeling like they are being watched, when it is the industry who, they feel, needs closer surveillance.

One couple from Durham Bridge have had numerous encounters with a private security firm and plain-clothed police officer in their community. Joey and Anna Saindon have been followed on their way to work and have had their pictures taken with telephoto lens cameras while going about their daily routines. When they called the RCMP, they found out that Securitas had already filed a complaint against them. They then contacted Securitas directly and voiced their concerns about being watched; once again, Securitas filed a second complaint with the RCMP.

“We went from a community that might see a police cruiser once every couple of months to seeing multiple cruisers passing by our house every half hour or so,” says Joey Saindon. “For a month or so it really felt like our community was being invaded by Southwestern Resources, Geokinetics, Securitas and RCMP, and there was nothing we could do about it”.

Graham Waugh’s family, from Corn Hill, recently received a visit from the RCMP after he sent an email to Corridor Resources, voicing his displeasure with their upcoming seismic testing program proposed for their pastoral community. Corridor Resources reported Waugh and his email to the RCMP. “Dealing with the authorities is a bit unnerving,” says Waugh, “it makes us feel ashamed to speak up, and like you’ve done something wrong. It feels like an intimidation tactic to pressure people into staying quiet about how they feel and what they are going through.”

In some instances, the intimidation has crossed over into personally threatening territory. Derek and Terri Telasco, founders of BanFracking NB, a group dedicated to fighting shale gas plans throughout the province, have been subjected to threats. In a month, the Purple Violet Press, an independent online media source in N.B, received an anonymous email from someone working in the oil and gas service industry. In the email the sender threatens “retaliation” and to “get even” with the Telasco’s for expressing their views on the shale gas industry by turning “their life into a living hell”.

The Telasco’s were given 48 hours to dismantle their website and Facebook group before the sender would act on their threats. They did not, and their website was subsequently hacked. They reported this, the email threats and their research on who the sender may be to the RCMP. The RCMP have yet to follow up on their complaints.

It seems that wherever there is strong opposition to shale gas exploration, there is intimidation. The shale gas opponents have vowed that they will not be deterred.

With files from the Purple Violet Press:

[Editor’s Note: I received this report in a private email; I did not derive this from the NB Media Co-op website.]

Link to original article:



Green Party NB Supports Opposition to Shale Gas

From the New Brunswick Harbinger, July 11, 2011

The Green Party of New Brunswick supports the ongoing efforts of citizens throughout New Brunswick to protect their communities, their drinking water and their air quality from the hazards of shale gas development. Evidence is continually mounting of deteriorating quality of life and health in regions where hydro-fracking for shale gas is being carried out. In addition, studies show that the methane released through fracking makes this unconventional extraction of natural gas a greater contributor to greenhouse gas emissions than conventional coal. Thus it is a net contributor to climate change.

“Shale gas is a low quality fossil fuel resource, just like the bitumen in the tar sands. We’re at the bottom of the barrel in terms of the energy resource that is left and we need to adapt,” says Roy MacMullin, the Green Party energy advocate. “We are now at the fork in the road. We can either choose to move backwards into even dirtier fossil fuels, or we can build homes that are ultra efficient with geothermal or passive solar, arrange our communities so that public transportation works, and replace dirty and dangerous power plants with renewable energy systems.”

Green Party president Janice Harvey added, “This is a 19th century development mentality. As long as New Brunswick stays mired here, we will always be at the back of the pack as the new green economy develops around us. The 21st century requires new thinking and new direction,” said Harvey.

MacMullin added, “The idea of natural gas being a transition fuel to a sustainable energy economy is history. Energy efficiency and renewable technologies have now developed to such an extent that we could move directly to a sustainable energy economy if investments are directed towards that goal.”

Link to article:

Canada legally required to take action on human right to water: Report

Ottawa – As the first anniversary of the UN General Assembly’s historic recognition of the human right to water and sanitation draws near, the Council of Canadians is releasing a new report today by chairperson Maude Barlow, titled Our Right to Water: A People’s Guide to Implementing the United Nations’ Recognition of the Right to Water and Sanitation. The report is available here.

The report finds that Canada is legally bound to respect the UN vote, and therefore to address the pressing issue of access to water and sanitation in First Nations communities…


Lest we Forget – The new Can-US Regulatory Co-operation Council and Perimeter Security Accord is the next generation of NACC and the SPP.

By Janet M Eaton, Sierra Club Canada,  Trade and Environment
Campaigner,   May 10th, 2011
A  Vancouver Sun May 9th article entitled “Is ‘harmonizing’ code for
cutting standards?”  cites the Canadian government, industry
representatives and consumer group reaction to a  new Canada-US
Regulatory Cooperation Council. [1]   Continue reading

Study finds high level of bacteria in bottled water in Canada

A Montreal study finds heterotrophic bacteria counts, in more than 70 percent of bottled water samples, exceed the recommended limits specified by the United States Pharmacopeia (USP). Researchers from Ccrest laboratories report their results today at the 110th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in San Diego.

“Despite having the cleanest tap water a large number of urban Canadians are switching over to bottled water for their daily hydration requirements. Unsurprisingly, the consumer assumes that since bottled water carries a price tag, it is purer and safer than most tap water,” says Sonish Azam, a researcher on the study.

Regulatory bodies such as Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Health Canada have not set a limit for the heterotrophic bacteria counts in bottled drinking water. However, according to the USP not more than 500 colony forming units (cfu) per milliliter should be present in drinking water.

The study was initiated in response to a Ccrest employee’s complaint of fowl taste and sickness after consumption of bottled water at the company. Azam and her colleagues Ali Khamessan and Massimo Marino randomly purchased several brands of bottled water from a local marketplace and subjected them to microbiological analysis. They discovered more than 70 percent of famous brands tested did not meet the USP specifications for drinking water.

“Heterotrophic bacteria counts in some of the bottles were found to be in revolting figures of one hundred times more than the permitted limit,” says Azam. In comparison the average microbial count for different tap water samples was 170 cfu/mL.

Azam stresses that these bacteria most likely do not cause disease and they have not confirmed the presence of disease-causing bacteria, but the high levels of bacteria in bottled water could pose a risk for vulnerable populations such as pregnant women, infants, immunocompromised patients and the elderly.

“Bottled water is not expected to be free from microorganisms but the cfu observed in this study is surprisingly very high. Therefore, it is strongly recommended to establish a limit for the heterotrophic bacteria count as well as to identify the nature of microorganisms present in the bottled water,” says Azam.


A live interview with Azam and her colleagues will be webcast Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. PDT, over the ASM Live uStream channel ( Questions will be taken from the audience via chat room and Twitter.

More information on this and other presentations can be found online in the 110th ASM General Meeting Press Kit at or by contacting Jim Sliwa ( or 202.942.9297) in the ASM Office of Communications.