A Story of Collaborative Success
“How do we make investing in our watersheds a political priority?”
As Coree Tull recalls, that’s the question a group of freshwater advocates coalesced around when the BC Watershed Security Coalition started.
The work began in April 2020 as the pandemic hit full force. Coree remembers that “a group of us working on freshwater in B.C. came together around the recognition that healthy watersheds are fundamental to our health, security, prosperity and reconciliation. Thousands of people were out of work or couldn’t go to work. We identified immediate opportunities for investments in watershed projects that would generate work for groups hardest-hit by COVID, particularly women, youth and Indigenous peoples. These investments would be a critical stepping stone towards long-term sustainable funding that communities, First Nations and local governments have been calling for over the past decade.”
Growth and Success
The BC government has invested $57 million in water since the Coalition began! In September 2020, the province invested $27 million in what eventually became the Healthy Watersheds Initiative, which created 1200+ jobs and includes an Indigenous Leadership Advisory Circle. This in turn has provided a concrete framework to advance the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. More recently, the province committed $30 million in Budget 2022 to watershed projects, including half for an Indigenous Watersheds Initiative. In mandates, the provincial government has also committed to a long term Watershed Security Fund.
Long Term Work
However, the Watershed Security Fund still doesn’t exist. Coree explains that “the government's commitment to the creation of a Watershed Security Fund represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to protect and restore B.C.’s watersheds, support collaborative partnerships for better decision making, and create healthy, secure, resilient communities. The Fund has the potential to ensure that Indigenous Nations, local governments and community organizations have the capacity to collaborate, as governments can’t do this on their own. The BC Watershed Security Coalition has been calling for a $75 million annual investment, based on the recommendations of the Sustainable Funding Working Group — 16 Indigenous and non- Indigenous freshwater experts. We know, however, that the province can’t do this alone and that the federal government will need to play a role in partnering with the province. The federal government made historic commitments of one billion dollars over the next 10 years for freshwater, so we believe there’s a real opportunity here to demonstrate leadership in BC on freshwater.”
What Makes a Strong Coalition?
This isn’t Coree’s first gig! Leaning on her wealth of experience, she has great advice to any group who wants to launch their own provincial watershed coalition:
Diversify and Lift People Up
“Within the BC coalition, we’ve worked really hard to bring in people that fill the gaps in our experiences, knowledge and networks. What makes a coalition successful is when we are able to identify what people’s strengths are and lift them up so they can shine!”
Put Aside Individualism
“With the BC Coalition, one of the most interesting things around success is that people check their egos at the door. It’s not about them as an individual or about their organization. Remember, we’re all there for the same reason!”
Unify Your Voice
“The essence of a coalition is that many people come together with a united voice to ask for something. The more voices that are united, the more successful we can be. Before we formed the BC Coalition, we were all asking for the same thing but we weren’t really going about it in the same way. The Coalition has allowed us to now be united and coordinated in speaking with our decision makers.”
Recognize the Intersections“The work we’re doing for watershed security is so much more than an environmental issue. It’s a life-sustaining issue, crossing many sectors and demographics. It’s an economic issue, it’s a climate issue, it’s a food security issue, it’s a reconciliation issue. The BC Watershed Security Coalition includes farmers, hunters and anglers, Indigenous peoples, local governments, businesses and conservationists working together because at the end of the day we all need clean freshwater to survive.”
Interested in reading more? Take a look at two op-eds Coree wrote in the Globe and Mail and The Province. If you are thinking about building a provincial watershed coalition and have questions for Coree, you can reach her by email.
Thank you to Coree for her support in writing this piece!