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2017 Annual Community Forum

Date & Time:
May 12, 2017

Water in the West: Rights of Water/Rights to Water

Friday May 12, 2017 | 9:30 AM – 3:30 PM (lunch provided)

Kahanoff Conference Centre, 105 12th Ave SE

Registration for this event is now open, but space is limited. Registration is free and this event is open to the public.Please visit the Community Section of the CIH website for the registration link and more information about the event.

Each year the Calgary Institute for the Humanities (CIH at the University of Calgary identifies a theme of pressing concern to our city, and invites three distinguished researchers to offer their perspectives on it.  This year’s seminar, our 37th, will address access to water.

Water is a potent symbol in so many cultures and religions because it is foundational to life.  Water connects everything on the blue planet: the human, the animal, and the material world.  Here in Western Canada, one vast watershed extends from the Rocky Mountains, crosses the prairies, and flows into James Bay, crossing all kinds of different human-made boundaries.

In the face of global climate change, water is an increasingly precious resource. On July 28, 2010, the United Nations “explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realization of all human rights.”  There have been notable failures in our country to provide access to this resource, particularly in our First Nations’ communities.  These failures are linked to larger systemic problems identified in Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). 

Both the TRC on the one hand, and the environmental movement on the other, challenge us to consider not just the way we have managed our water, but how we have thought about it, and how we might balance competing claims on water in the future.  How can we rethink our relation to water?  While stressing the human right to water, do we need to think at the same time about our responsibility to water?  Do non-human entities such as fish, plants and water itself have rights? What might different spiritual or cultural traditions tell us about our duty to water? What might our duty to water tell us about our connection to each other?

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