On April 11, 2019, a wide range of people united by their common concern for Canada’s water future – water and climate scientists, policy experts, legislators, and water decision rights-holders and stakeholders – gathered in Ottawa to discuss solutions for Canada’s emerging water crisis. The event featured a beautiful venue, distinguished panel, and attendance by federal ministers and other senior leaders. But the keystone piece of this event was a report, Water Security for Canadians: Solutions for Canada’s Emerging Water Crisis, that was the culmination of months of work by a coalition of groups who recognize the urgent need for more active federal leadership on water. In January 2020, the POLIS Water Sustainability Project hosted a webinar that discussed the report and key developments since its release.
The Canada Water Act (CWA) is an outdated piece of legislation that is unable to ensure federal water governance can effectively address increasingly complex and pressing water challenges. The Water Security report proposes a radical renewal of the CWA, including the creation of new federal water institutions and a co-drafting process with Indigenous Nations. The report was designed to be impactful, targeting federal decision-makers by laying out a multi-faceted case for legislative renewal that will lead to significant cost savings, more effective governance, and fulfillment of Canada’s commitment to Indigenous peoples.
The report has not had a chance to collect any dust since the launch event in Ottawa. It was well-received at the 2019 Canadian Water Resources Association conference in May, where the report’s main authors hosted a session dedicated to their findings. The report was the basis of engagement work during the 2019 federal election, and was sent to each of the main political parties. We were pleased to see some of the ideas from the report included in election platforms of multiple parties and, following the election, establishment of a new Canada Water Agency as a key priority in the mandate letter issued to Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Johnathan Wilkinson, by the Prime Minister. The introduction of a new Agency presents an opportunity for advocates to propose ideas around its scope, mandate, and core functions. It could also provide an opening for federal policy and legislative renewal on water (e.g., modernized Canada Water Act) under future governments.
Written by: the Forum for Leadership on Water