Fields Notes from the Living Waters Rally
The event saw a diverse, nationally representative group of over 100 freshwater community leaders come together with a focus on building a stronger network, increased capacity, and heightened collaboration within the water community.
This event was a valuable opportunity for building community between, and capacity behind, Canada’s water stewardship leaders and organizations.
Keynote Sandra Postel, a freshwater fellow of the National Geographic Society, where she serves as lead water expert for the Society’s Freshwater Initiative, spoke with great passion about the bold and inspiring stories of positive change happening worldwide and the need for meaningful action on our pressing water issues.
Other speakers included Lake Ontario Waterkeeper Mark Mattson, who talked about creating a community focused on swimmable, fishable, and drinkable water. Tony Maas of WWF-Canada’s fresh water program challenged the group to think and act cooperatively to positively change the oversight and management of Canada’s lakes, rivers, and groundwater.
In an effort to help rally participants more effectively frame future water discussions with their respective audiences, Angus McAllister, McAllister Opinion Research, reviewed some of the key findings related to Canadian perspectives on freshwater and the environment.
Other topics included community-based monitoring, changes to the Fisheries Act, government engagement, and collaborations and coalitions.
In addition to the focus on science and policy to drive positive results for water, there was significant discussion about the social equity, and spiritual aspects of our water, and specifically Indigenous water issues. These discussions were led by Chief Gilbert Whiteduck (Kitigan Zibi Community, Quebec), and Cecelia Brooks, Maliseet, from the Saint John River Valley in New Brunswick.
Throughout the weekend, a number of the program participants also participated in field events, including a trip on the Ottawa River via voyageur canoe led by Ottawa Riverkeeper Meredith Brown, as well as a hike through the hills of beautiful Gatineau Park.
Event sponsor RBC hosted a Saturday night cocktail hour and tour at the Canadian Museum of Nature’s Blue Water Gallery, providing an inspiring backdrop for further discussion and networking.
This event was an opportunity for many of Canada’s water champions to consider how best to tackle the challenges that lay ahead for our communities and our country, and sparked the beginning of many future collaborative efforts.
Terry Rees is the executive director of the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations, and a regular participant in water policy and community building in Ontario, and across Canada.