As humans, our bodies are between 50 and 75 per cent water—no small figure. Our daily lives depend on water for myriad of functions and activities. Not only do we rely on water for our physical existence, it is crucial for our ecological, economic, social, and spiritual wellbeing.
Water is the great unifier. All living things depend on water for their existence. In my life, I have been fortunate to live beside many great bodies of water—both fresh and salt. I love spending time in, on, and around water and many of my hobbies are water-centric.
My past and present experiences with water, however, differ dramatically from much of the rest of world, and many parts of Canada. While I faced temporary water shortages throughout the hot Okanagan summers of my childhood, globally an astonishing 780 million people live without access to clean water (UN Water, 2013). Indeed, by 2025, 1800 million people are expected to be living in countries or regions facing absolute water scarcity, with an additional 2/3 under stressful conditions (UN Water, 2013).
Governments and communities have a responsibility to respect and protect their water sources. Here in Canada, we need to do more to fulfill these commitments to care for Creation. We need to respect and protect the sacredness of our watersheds, seas, and oceans. Despite being one of the richest countries in the world, Canadian environmental and water protections are heavily lacking.
While the United Nations Development Program reports that 99.8 per cent of Canadians have access to potable water, that statistic is highly contested, particularly amongst First Nations and Tribal Councils. Out of the 633 First Nations reserves across Canada, 112 do not have access to safe and potable drinking water. Systemic underfunding, environmental racism, and a disregard for basic constitutional- and human rights disproportionately threaten First Nations’ access to potable and safe water.
As Christians, of both Settler and Indigenous backgrounds, we have a responsibility to work together to uphold our sisters and brothers right to water, and right to life. Indigenous and Non-Indigenous communities must work to respect and protect the sacredness of creation – particularly water – which binds us all together.
This year, Canadians, from all walks of life, are coming together this Friday for World Water Day to Pledge to Protect Our Water. This initiative is led by a coalition of communities, individuals, and The Council of Canadians. The call responds to recent legislation, which has undermined environmental protections and limited scientific inquiry within the country, and calls on people – like you and me – to make a pledge to protect our local watersheds and ecosystems.
Amidst the threats of pollution; tanker and pipeline spills; hydraulic fracturing; tar sands mining; and failing infrastructure, we must stand up and pledge to protect our water. Movements such as the Council of Canadians photo pledge or the Blue Drop Movement on unceded Coast Salish Territory in Vancouver are fantastic examples of initiatives being taken by Canadians to stand up for their water.
I encourage you to look in to both resources, and to share any of your diocesan or parish water-focused initiatives. Further, how can we, as a Church, do a better job at teaching and sharing the sacredness of water within the Christian tradition?