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Canada: Nestlé allegedly extracting water from indigenous land without consent while local residents lack drinking water

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4 October 2018

While Nestlé extracts millions of litres from their land, residents have no drinking water

Author: Alexandra Shimo, The Guardian

[W]hile [residents] do without water... Nestlé, the world's biggest bottler, is extracting up to 3.6m litres of water daily from nearby Six Nations treaty land. "Six Nations did not approve [of Nestlé pumping]," [Dawn] Martin-Hill [a Six Nations local and professor of indigenous studies at McMaster University] said. "They told Nestlé that they wanted them to stop. Of course, they are still pumping as we speak."... The Six Nations are not the only First Nations community in Canada with a water crisis. There are currently 50 indigenous communities with long-term boil water advisories, which means an estimated 63,000 people haven’t had drinkable water for at least a year – and some for decades. But this may underestimate the size of the problem, since some indigenous communities, such as Six Nations, have a functional water plant but no workable plumbing. The lack of water has been linked to health issues in indigenous communities... [such as] hepatitis A, gastroenteritis... scabies, [and] ringworm.

... [T]he question of who owns Canadian water is as murky as the water on many First Nations lands. Water is also supposed to be regulated by the federal government... [A]ccording to the Canadian constitution, the federal government has a “duty to accommodate and consult” First Nations and to make sure other parties do the same when extracting any natural resource, including water, from indigenous land. This legal ambiguity has allowed Nestlé to move in and extract precious water on expired permits for next to nothing. Nestlé pays the province of Ontario $503.71 (US$390.38) per million litres. But they pay the Six Nations nothing... “We are working hard on developing our relationships with local First Nations communities, and look forward to working together,” Jennifer Kerr, director of corporate affairs for Nestlé Waters Canada, wrote in an email to the Guardian.

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Company response
7 November 2018

Nestle response

Author: Nestle

We share concerns about drought conditions and access to water in Ontario and are committed to sustainable water management and stewardship wherever we operate. We believe that public consultation on water sustainability, pricing and future planning are essential to ensure sustainable water management. We will continue to work with local and provincial governments, environmental agencies and community groups, our employees, as well as local residents on a thorough approach to water resource management to ensure the community's needs come first... Over the last 18 years, we have built a comprehensive body of scientific data on local water resources where we operate in Ontario. This, along with our ongoing monitoring and management, guides our actions and underpins our long-term commitment to sustainable water management. We have always operated in compliance with government set rates for water drawing... We will continue to work with the government, community and environmental stakeholders to ensure the protection of water resources in Ontario for generations to come.

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