This has been one of the most challenging months of my career. I am an environmental lawyer by trade, a Waterkeeper by calling.
Over the years, I have appeared before judges, presented to Senate committees, cross-examined experts on the witness stand, and spoken to donors at fundraising dinners.
I have never felt as vulnerable as I did on September 19.
That afternoon, I stood up at the National Water Centre and admitted, “I can’t guarantee a clean water future.”
The face of environmental law has changed in Canada in the last two years. The laws that were the foundation of my work have been stripped of their power.
The Fisheries Act has been gutted. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act no longer applies to most major projects in Canada. The Navigable Waters Protection Act was rewritten, so the word “water” isn’t even in the title anymore. As a lawyer, those were my tools.
What does that mean for Canadian environmentalism? It means we are starting over.
Where do we start? That’s a question I have asked myself many times.
I can’t guarantee a clean water future, but I have an idea where we need to begin.
The foundation of a clean water future is our common strength: our individual connections to water.
We need to tap into the unique, personal stories that capture the way water has shaped our lives. We need to recognize the role of water in our culture.
The best, most effective water leaders I know live and breathe their personal water stories every day.
I learned this by watching the best - Only after you know where your greatest memory of water took place, do you understand where a clean water future begins.
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