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Three leaders from the Canadian Union of Public Employees have arrived in Japan to speak out against corporate control of the world's water at the third World Water Forum.
The forum began Sunday, March 16, and the main debate will be the privatization of the world's water systems. About 10,000 people will be attending the forum, including government leaders, CEO's of global water corporations, environment groups and labour unions.
"Our mission is to remind world leaders that water is a human right, not a commodity to be sold off to the highest bidder," says Claude Généreux, CUPE's national secretary-treasurer and leader of the delegation. He says the privatization of water has had disastrous consequences in many countries around the world. "Water should be delivered by the public sector in the public interest. We can't let our most precious natural resource fall into the hands of a small group of multinational corporations."
Already global water corporations are pressing cash-strapped municipal governments across Canada to privatize their water systems. But CUPE is fighting this push to privatize, speaking out for stronger public water systems. In Japan, Claude Généreux is joined by two CUPE leaders who have fought water privatization in their own backyards: Frank Morrissey, with CUPE 416, represents water and wastewater workers in Toronto and Barbara Plews, from CUPE 287, is president of the municipal workers union in North Battleford, Saskatchewan.
"Japan might seem like a long way from North Battleford," Plews said, "but the issues that are being debated at the World Water Forum are the same issues that municipal leaders are debating in my city. In Japan, we'll also be debating the international trade deals that make it easier for multinational corporations to cross borders and privatize our water systems. I want to meet other concerned citizens to find out how I can fight these multinationals before they come to North Battleford and other communities in Canada."