We have recently had many occasions to be ashamed of the positions adopted by Canada on the international scene.
First of all, there was the position adopted by Canada at the 13th session of the UN climate change conference, held in Bali from December 3 to 14, 2007. While Canada was one of the 160 countries that signed the Kyoto accord, last November, Prime Minister Harper described the Kyoto accord “as a mistake that the world must never repeat”, and sided with two non-signatory countries, the United States and Australia, to request a compromise. According to many specialists, the targets set in this consensus agreement will in fact lead to an increase in greenhouse gases and compromise the objectives laid out in the Kyoto accord.
Secondly, Canada continues to transfer prisoners to the Afghani authorities, despite proof that torture is practised in afghani prisons and that this is contrary to the International convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment which Canada has signed.
Finally, Canada has taken another embarrassing position. Last week, at the meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Canada blocked a resolution to recognize water as a basic human right. Indeed, Canada – in line with the United States position – opposed the resolution presented by Germany and Spain, and supported by 227 countries for the recognition of this right. This will have serious consequences for many countries.
As health professionals, we know that water, like air, is essential to life and that it cannot not be substituted. We recognize the right to life, and consequently the right to water must be recognized. Water is a public good, belonging to the human community, which everyone can use but which no one can own. It is not – and should not be – a commodity.
The Canadian delegation argued that if water was recognized as a human right, Canada would lose control over this resource and be obliged to export water to other countries in need. Yet, Canada recognizes the right to food and has never been obliged to send food to other countries. Indeed, by blocking the Human Rights Council from recognizing water as a basic human right, Canada is not protecting this resource; rather it seems to be protecting the “right” of private enterprise to make profits by commercializing water.
Already in 2006, to resolve the crisis, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had presented an emergency report recommending that “the right to safe water be recognized as a human right.” While around one billion people in the world are denied access to safe water and one child dies every 20 seconds of a disease resulting from unsafe water, Canada’s refusal to recognize water as a basic human right is truly shameful.