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Water Disciples of Dufferin

May 21, 2014   ·   0 Comments

Professor Hugh R. Whiteley, a retired water resources engineering and hydrology teacher from the University of Guelph, spoke at a water forum at the Shelburne Library Tuesday evening. The focus of the event was watershed discipleship, the vision and values that apply to water stewardship shared by individuals, communities and all levels of government. Professor Whiteley is a National Board Member for the Canadian Water Resource Association which was formed to promote effective water management across the country.

The Professor was introduced to Shelburne in the 1980’s as part of a research team examining snow accumulation in the area; needless to say, he had plenty to work with. He was in town this week as a guest of Dufferin KAIROS, an ecumenical social and environmental justice initiative formed Canada wide by 11 churches in 2001. The organization works for social justice through education and research, advocating for the fundamental value of all human beings and their right to food, water, shelter, safety and freedom.

Professor Whiteley told the audience that water is not even mentioned in the Canadian Constitution and that there is no government frame work for the distribution of responsibilities for our water. In the 1980’s the Liberal government had prepared, what he called, “a fairly comprehensive strategy,” but there was not enough interest in parliament to implement it. He regrets that “there is no interest at all from the current Conservative government,” despite alarmist reports from the International Joint Commission (Canada and the U.S.) on the quality of water in Lake Erie, Huron and Michigan. “Good policy must address a comprehensive environment of which we are all a part of – there are no passengers on planet earth,” he said, “we are all crew.”

Davileen Radigan shared the stage with Professor Whiteley. Also a scholar with a Masters in Education and Divinity, she presents eco-retreats for students and groups incorporating educational displays and her passion for documentary films, which she says “quicken our conscience and consciousness about justice, human rights and the environment.”

The short documentary Cold Amazon likened the importance of Canada’s greatest river the Mackenzie to South America’s Amazon. It is the story of northern Canadian communities trying to protect the river basin from the threats of the Tar Sands and other developments through community based water monitoring. 11% of all fresh water that empties into the Arctic Ocean comes from the Mackenzie River basin which covers 1.8 million square kilometres, three provinces and all the territories, or about 1/5 of Canada. “It connects all Canadians and controls our climate,” says Radigan.

The water forum was well attended by members of the ecumenical initiative and the community at large, including Dufferin-Caledon Green Party Candidate Karren Wallace. Wallace developed a keen interest in source water protection in the mega quarry battle, “a proposal that had the potential to impact more than 1 million Ontarian’s drinking water,” she said. “It showed us how easily our water can be compromised by big development.”

Davileen Radigan says the problem is “we tend to damage our rivers before we protect them. The evening advocated for thinking globally and acting locally to protect water systems. “The Mackenzie River has a profound influence on millions of lives,” says Radigan, “but most people don’t even know it exists.” For more information on KAIROS visit: www.kairoscanada.org

By Marni Walsh

         

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