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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Notes from the Toronto Water Forum

Elaine Rowe-Mahon, Secretary, London Chapter, Council of Canadians, attended this forum and took these notes:

Morning Speakers

Robert Fleming, Executive Director or Waterloo Watch
Mr. Fleming gave an account of the decision to end water Fluoridation in Waterloo.
Waterloo Watch an independent, not-for-profit organization of volunteers, professionals
and experts, responds to issues of concern in the community. Mr. Fleming, who has a
background in law enforcement, business and social activism undertook a review of the
available science wrt risks and benefits of water fluoridation, without prior bias. He
concluded there is insufficient evidence for, and mounting evidence against this
practise. A public referendum indicated, by a narrow margin, a wish to stop the practise,
municipal council upheld the referendum result. Pictures were shown of the flouridation
equipment and the simplicity of the process to, literally, turn off the tap - takes less than
a day to complete.
Some points that were made:
- science for is limited, and weak
- science against increases as time goes on
- the fluoride source is basically hazardous waste and includes trace contaminants
such as arsenic, lead, mercury and radionuclides. Although of low levels, these
accumulate in the body, toxicity results over a long period
- evidence states a lifetime of fluoridated water consumption results in prevention of <1
cavity per person
- contaminants in flouridated water are not required to be removed from waste water
- effects of waste water toxicity increased by exponential population growth
- RCDSO (? Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario) and Public Health pro
- issue is related to bottled water issue (ʻbetterʼ tap water - less bottled water
Canadians Opposed to Fluoridation
- new organization
- (website under construction)
Waste Water Management
Lino Grima, University of Toronto
Professor (semi-retired, Centre for Environment, Geography and UTM) Grima has an
extensive C.V. including research and committee participation involving water related
matters of public importance. He gave a general account of the importance of waste
water management in the city of Toronto and some philosophical reflections after a
career devoted to issues in which slow progress has been made (emphasized the
importance of waste water management as a public health issue, importance of analysis
over emotion in process of effecting change)
- 2600 storm sewers empty directly into Lake Ontario
- 14 billion litres of sewer overflow annually
- explained with diagrams the problem of construction leading to sewer overflow and
engineering solutions
- recommended book by Peter Victor, Economist, York University “Managing Without
Growth: Slower by Design, Not Disaster” 2008
Karen Buck
Ms. Buck is head of Citizens for a Safe Environment and gave a detailed account of a
pilot project funded through Toronto Conservation Authority to divert downspout water.
The Residential Rainproofing Project was undertaken in Riverdale in association with
Mark Schollen & Co. This project identified key locations in areas with an identified
problem of combined sewer overflow. They approached homeowners of properties that
were appropriate and constructed water gardens designed to receive downspout
rainwater. These were carefully designed and constructed and also beautiful and
maintenance free. The project had lots of public support and won an award.
Noon Breakout Groups
1. CETA (Stuart Trew)
Areas of concern discussed: Green Energy Act, LCBO viability, Drug patent laws,
Agricultural issues (seed patents, food prices).
Questions of activism approach:
- who decides if water becomes a commodity
- how do we identify which organizations are at risk? How to mobilize?
- privacy of negotiation an affront to democracy. How to expose?
Points made
- provinces need to sign on to the deal individually and can opt out. Deal likely to
collapse if a number (?) of provinces do not ratify
Discussion related to Public/Private partnerships, municipal activism via councillor
communication, uniting left and interested parties with perhaps a trade forum/
convention, approaching MPPs, query legal challenge to federal government (have to
come from province), and federal need to pressure municipal, provincial governments.
Questions posed
1. Great Lakes reclamation. What initiatives to take?
2. How can Toronto join with other Lakes communities
3. Control of GL rests with people who live around them. How to control corporations?
Discussion summary:
- need to perceive things differently, adjusting personal and world view
- Action items: Kew Beach
- encourage reconnection with H2O physically, psychologically
- Water Walkers/cross-border connection
- stake holders - reach out to fishers, cottagers
Building a movement
“Do not accept dilution as a solution”
“Keep the rain out of the drain”
Look to Halifax, a model city that has turned around its sewage problem
NFB Documentary: Waterlife
Robert Lovelace
Mr Lovelace spoke about the need to ʻre-indigenizeʼ the Commons from the perspective
of the Mishnabe people. He spoke of the processes of colonization and capitalization
as inter-related and drew a parallel between what has happened to his people
historically and what is happening today through global corporatization. Integral is the
previous view of indigenous life as inferior. A key element [in opposition] is the refusal
to commodify the natural world. Raised economic theories of John Locke:
domestication of human labour lead to exponential human growth (and a failure to
consider pollution). Now we are at the “Era of Cultures at the End of Time”
Indigenous attitude requires that we adjust our governance in association with our
ecosystems. [Complex map of indigenous languages at beginning of colonization used
to illustrate concept - didnʼt quite understand this]. Governance and social relations
largely inseparable in indigenous communities and closely related to ecosystems.
Environment determines culture:
- energy use
- food security
- population levels
- diplomacy and trade
- defensive laws and boundaries
- customary law
- balance and replenishment cycle
Philosophy is ʻonly expend [?consume] as much energy as is required to acquire items
of necessityʼ.
Water is not a renewable resource, it is a replenishment resource
While resisting colonial development, avoid becoming solely cultures of resistance.
Institute and practise customary laws at the local ecosystem level and meaningful
negotiation with macrosystems
Advise against appealing to government
Food security: local farming arganizations often have lots of info
Recommended reading: Tayaki Alfred, U. of Victoria: Peace, Power and Righteousness
Elaine MacDonald, EcoJustice (formerly Sierra Legal Defense Fund)
Ms MacDonald spoke of the National Sewage Report and the Great lakes Sewage
Report (best community Green Bay Michigan, B+; worst rated Detroit, D; London rated
Proposed Federal Regulation can be obtained in March 2010 issue Canada Gazette,
Part 1

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