Every Wednesday, a group of people gather at Memorial Park to voice their concerns about what they call the government’s “reckless stewardship of water resources” in Canada, and how this affects First Nation’s communities in particular. Hence, the name Water Wednesday.
Water Wednesday was conceived earlier this spring as an offshoot of the Idle No More movement. Organized by Michael Champagne and Michael Kannon, the nine-week project brings people together every Wednesday in July and August to raise awareness on the current condition of water in Canada.
The gathering held on July 24 opened with remarks from Champagne, as well as a speech from Rebecca Blaikie, followed by a prayer.
“The protection of water should be central in the minds of every Canadian,” Blaikie said in her speech.
“Only 2% of Canadian water is under protection. This statistic is unacceptable and water should not just be sold, but should be more protected in order for it to be treasured for future generations,” she said.
Blaikie concluded that water in Canada should be the core of broader, political actions, necessary to halt further polluting of waters.
In an interview earlier, Blaikie said it was her first time at a Water Wednesday gathering and she was proud to be a part of it.
The next speaker, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, an Assistant Professor at the University of Manitoba, discussed the 2008 apology that Prime Minister Stephen Harper made to the victims and survivors of Canada’s residential schools. Sinclair lashed out at the government for what he called the forgotten promise of this apology, pointing to the government’s slow release of federal documents pertaining to Residential Schools. “Although some documents have been released, it is still incomplete,” he said.
A duo of musicians called Twin — formed by David Fort and Brooklyn Samson, who came all the way from California — performed the songs, Mississippi River and Rivers of LA.
The gathering also featured Audrey Logan who introduced the concept of ‘seed bombs’ which are balls of mud packed with heritage seeds from different parts of Manitoba. The mud balls were released into the water. Logan said this was a traditional method of scattering seeds across the Assiniboine river.
During the speaker’s corner at this event, Councillor Ronnie Beardy talked about the situation over water in his community — Pimicikimak Cree Nation at Cross Lake — in particular the algal blooms that force the First Naion to further purify their water.
Beardy also spoke about the the destruction of Lake Winnipeg, which he blamed on pollution and the ongoing regulation of the lake’s levels by Manitoba Hydro.
As the event concluded, some people painted a banner dedicated to Water Wednesday, conveying messages such as ‘Save the ELA’ (Experimental Lakes Area), ‘Water is the womb of Mother Earth’, and others.
“It’s a greater outcome than expected,” said Water Wednesday organizer Michael Kannon. He said, the movement’s success is due in part to the huge interaction of people at the event whether they are Aboriginal or not.
The event’s significance centred on the importance of water in Canada which is important to all people, said Kannon, and to condemn against water laws that endanger the rights and constitution of Indigenous laws.
Water Wednesday continues until the end of August.