Rarely does the convergence of political responsibility, Indigenous Rights, and ecosystem benefit converge in such a dramatic and urgent way

The following is a press release detailing a letter from 14 religious and 7 Indigenous leaders calling on American President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to begin work toward modernizing the Columbia River Treaty. The treaty addresses the governing of water resources to promote economic growth, wealth, and happiness for the citizens of these nations. Canadian National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald is among the signatories.Columbia_dams_map


Today religious and indigenous leaders urged President Obama and Prime Minister Harper to start negotiations to modernize the Columbia River Treaty. Both nations need to work together to right historic wrongs and promote water stewardship in the face of climate change. The letter, signed by 14 religious leaders and 7 indigenous leaders representing nearly all Tribes and First Nations in the Columbia Basin, transmitted a Declaration on Ethics and modernizing the Columbia River Treaty as a foundation for international negotiations.

“The Declaration speaks very clearly of how important and critical it is for there to be justice to correct the many years of injustice to the Native people of the Columbia Basin, including the First Nations of Canada,” said Matt Wynne, Chairman of the Upper Columbia United Tribes. “Religious and indigenous leaders coming together to sign and support this declaration underscores that the future of the Columbia River is not just a political, but a moral issue. Native Americans suffered the greatest losses and the most damage as a result of not being included in the first negotiations leading up to the 1964 Treaty. It helps keep my spirit strong knowing that our struggle for justice and stewardship of the river carries so much faith-based support.”

“Rarely does the convergence of political responsibility, Indigenous Rights, and ecosystem benefit converge in such a dramatic and urgent way,” said Bishop Mark MacDonald, the Anglican Church of Canada’s first National Indigenous Anglican Bishop. “A modernized treaty for the Columbia River is an opportunity for all the peoples of the Columbia – and the great system of life which is the River ecosystem – to walk through to a new day of justice and well-being.”

The Declaration on Ethics and Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty sets forth eight principles for modernizing the Columbia River Treaty that include respecting indigenous rights, protecting and restoring healthy ecosystems with abundant fish and wildlife populations, and providing fish passage to all historical locations.

“Our Tribal and First Nation communities in both Canada and the United States have fundamentally relied on Salmon as our life source,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Chair of the Okanagan Nation Alliance. “As Elders have stated ‘we are salmon people.’ The unilateral and ignorant actions of the U.S. power authorities blocking our salmon in the 1930s with dam construction followed a few decades later by turning our Upper Columbia watershed into industrial storage reservoirs has devastated our Lands, Fisheries and gravely impacted our culture and communities.”

“The original Columbia River Treaty was signed with no input from the original inhabitants of the land,” said Kathryn Teneese, Ktunaxa Nation Council Chair. “Traditional ways of life in the Columbia Basin were radically altered forever. It is important that we recognize the mistakes of the past so that we may focus on the future. We must work together across territories and boundaries to build a new Columbia River Treaty that includes restoring salmon to the upper Columbia as a priority.”

Political leaders in Ottawa and Washington D.C. have not taken a position on the renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty. Federal agencies within the United States have recommended that the United States and Canada “develop a modernized framework for the Treaty that ensures a more resilient and healthy ecosystem-based function throughout the Columbia River Basin while maintaining an acceptable level of flood risk and assuring reliable and economic hydropower benefits.” All four Northwest states, 15 Columbia Basin tribes, fishermen and environmentalists support that recommendation.

British Columbia provincial officials released their draft recommendation in March of 2014. Their recommendation was that the Treaty be renewed and that changes occur within the existing framework. The B.C. Province maintains that ecosystem values are currently an important consideration and that they should continue to be a consideration, as well as adaptation to climate change, in Treaty planning and implementation. The federal government in Ottawa that will negotiate with the United States has not yet issued Canada’s recommendations on the Treaty.

“The hard work needed to address these historical injustices is reflected in the strong unity that this group represents,” continued Grand Chief Phillip. “In Canada, We have the wind at our back with the recent supreme court of Canada’s Tsilhqot’in decision that paves the way for the broad recognition of our inherent title to our lands. The time is now for reconciliation that will support our stewardship responsibility for the salmon and passage into the upper Columbia. It’s an ethical and moral decision for the governments of Canada and the United States to do the right thing.”

Added Bishop MacDonald, “There is no doubt that a modernized Treaty restoring the Columbia River to health and returning salmon to ancestral spawning waters would transform discussions of environment, Indigenous Rights, and the future of sustainable life around the world. The churches, who have always rhetorically aspired to walk with Indigenous Peoples, have a chance, in this opportunity, to walk with Indigenous Peoples in a movement towards just and sustainable life for all.”

DOWNLOAD FULL TEXT OF LETTER AT anglican.us1.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=d120aa8efc4112c7cae41108e&id=9f9b7200da&e=3a5a6fdfd9

FULL ARTICLE with background and LINKS at http://us1.campaign-archive2.com/?u=d120aa8efc4112c7cae41108e&id=5099195cc2&e=3a5a6fdfd9



Where the Waters Meet – Justice, Water and Theatre of the Oppressed

By Andrew Stephens-Rennie on Anglicanjournal.com

About 600 Anglican and Lutheran youth from across the country gathered in Kamloops,Clay14_620 B.C. August 14 to 17 for the third bi-annual Canadian Lutheran Anglican Youth Gathering (CLAY).

As part of a varied and engaging programme, one component ”Where the Waters Meet: The National Youth Project” explored the rich biblical imagery of water and its connection to water as a basic human right, and was led by Devon Goldie (PWRDF youth council member) and the Rev. Paul Gehrs (Assistant to ELCIC Bishop Susan Johnson). It also highlighted the gathering’s four-year commitment to engage water issues through education, reflection and practical response.

“The Right to Water was an aspect at the Joint Assembly [of the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada] last July,” said Gehrs. “The Joint Assembly Declaration commits Lutherans and Anglicans to working on the issues of responsible resource extraction and of homelessness and affordable housing.” Joint Assembly delegates participated in a liturgy on Parliament Hill praying for those affected by the scarcity of clean water in Canada and throughout the world.

“The Right to Water is a youth expression of these commitments, because potable water is an aspect of affordable housing, and resource extraction can affect water quality and availability,” added Gehrs.

Where the Waters Meet is about more than providing young people with information about water security. Its two 90-minute sessions also engaged participants in creative problem solving, and provided them with tools to take back to their communities.

Goldie, who studies theatre at the University of Victoria, used an approach inspired by Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed.

“I love using theatre for teaching because it provides a whole new kinetic and visual way of approaching the topic,” she said. The group created a tableau depicting a community suffering a water-related injustice. They soon had a house, community members, an outhouse and a poisoned well.

With Goldie’s guidance, the group stopped to take a look at the image they’d created in order to identify what was wrong in that situation.

“Having an image in front of them helped them to identify a whole new set of problems,” said Goldie. Those who weren’t yet a part of the tableau were asked to join the others and help fix the picture in a way that was both relational and intentional.

“Slowly, we were able to turn the picture into a just model. Afterwards we discussed how they could use those same techniques when they went back home to engage their community,” said Goldie.

Read the full article at http://www.anglicanjournal.com/articles/youth-discover-that-ministry-is-worth-it

Canadian Anglican and Lutheran youth lead national prayer event on Water

Article from ANGLICAN JOURNAL (Canada)


By Leigh Anne Williams on July, 06 2013
Photo Credit: Art Babych

Hundreds of Anglicans and Lutherans in Ottawa for Joint Assembly converged on Parliament Hill on Saturday morning for a prayer event intended to draw attention to the issue of access to clean water, particularly in aboriginal communities.

Led by Lutheran and Anglican youth, the event gathered people into circles of 12 on the walk in front of the Peace Tower on ParliamentHill-Water_620Parliament Hill.  Volunteers held long ribbons of turquoise cloth that sparkled in the sun and cascaded down the steps like a waterfall. The ribbons were later carried through the crowd after the service .

The prayer service was led by Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Susan Johnson, national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, and Lydia Mamakwa, area bishop for northern Ontario. There were prayers for the rivers, for people who make their living from the water and for people who cross oceans. There were also prayers for the responsible use of water in urban and rural settings.

Heather Werboweski, 17, from First Lutheran in Winnipeg, told the Journal that she thinks the event will have an impact. “Now more people are aware that it’s an issue and so I hope they will more consciously think about the water that they use and think about the people who don’t have the resources that we do.”

Deb Roberts, a member from Christ Lutheran Church in Regina who attended with her 14-month-old daughter Rowan, said the event was a great idea. “It shows solidarity working together for the Lutherans and the Anglicans and for everybody with the native people…We all are treaty people…water is an issue for all of us, so we should all have the same rights and the same access to water.

Bishop Adam Halkett of the diocese of Saskatchewan said, “The water is being damaged, so it’s going to affect our grandchildren. It’s affecting us already today, so we need to let the government know that we are the people of this land. We didn’t sell anything…We shared a lot of this land and water is also a part of that.”

Bishop Susan Johnson said the event was “a wonderful opportunity to be on the Hill and to make this really significant gesture and statement right at the foot of our nation’s capital.”

– See more at: http://www.anglicanjournal.com/articles/praying-on-parliament-hill#sthash.0UNXzguk.dpuf

KEEP THE EARTH – Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management Annual Awards

CIWEM’s Annual Dinner celebrates and rewards environmental excellence, addresses the challenges ahead, and supports the next generation of water and environmental professionals.

“We are participants in a web of life, responsible as stewards ‘to till and keep the earth’ – to develop and husband its resources for all the people of the world and also other life forms. Instead of the self serving way of being which has scarred the earth and polluted the waters, we need a greater awareness and a genuine enlightenment that happiness does not come from accumulating more and more but in sharing ‘enough’ with our neighbour.”

This was the powerful message given by The Bishop of London, The Right Reverend and Right Honourable Dr. Richard Chartres, at the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management’s (CIWEM) Annual Dinner, delivered to the 300 strong audience of politicians, senior environmental professionals, environmental artists, consultants and contractors and regulators on 29th May, 2013 at the Draper’s Hall in the historic city area of London.  Hosted by CIWEM President, Paul Hillman, and kindly supported by AECOM, Mott MacDonald, Jackson Hyder, HWH & Associates and Grontmij, this is the premier social event to celebrate excellence in the water and environment sector.

Guests responded to the call to support the next generation of professionals by donating nearly £3,000 for CIWEM’s youth water prize, Tomorrow’s Water.  Tomorrow’s Water is the Institution’s charitable initiative aimed at improving environmental education in schools.  It provides an opportunity for young people to develop practical and innovative projects aimed at solving water-related and environmental problems for the public benefit.


CIWEM’s prestigious environmental awards were bestowed on the evening to those who have demonstrated innovation and excellence in their work. The 2013 winners were presented with their awards by the CIWEM President and The Bishop of London.  The awards were: 

The AWEinspiring! (Art, Water & Environment) Award, given in association with the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World was awarded to Platform, a London-based, innovative arts collective.

The Living Wetlands Award went to Upstream Thinking, South West Water’s innovative initiative that has helped restore thousands of acres of wetlands. 

The CIWEM Young Members Award, sponsored by Jacobs, was awarded to Pippa Lawton, Senior Scientist and Project Manager with Royal HaskoningDHV.

The Outstanding Water and Environmental Journal Paper went to Mike Gardner of Atkins, for his paper, Improving the interpretation of ‘less than’ values in environmental monitoring. 

The Outstanding Journal of Flood Risk Management Paper was received by Anthony Hurford of HR Wallingford, for Validating the return period of rainfall thresholds used for Extreme Rainfall Alerts by linking rainfall intensities with observed surface water flood events.            

CIWEM’s Executive Director, Nick Reeves, OBE said:

“The Bishop of London’s message lies at the heart of the quest for a sustainable and resilient future and should inform our thinking about the way we live, work and conduct our business day-to-day.  It fits well with CIWEM’s public-benefit ethos and the values of our members.”   


Water: the Creator’s sacred gift

May 1, 2013–This article originally appeared in the Ministry Report, an Anglican Journal supplement produced by the Resources for Mission department of the Anglican Church of Canada.

Read online at http://news.anglican.ca/news/stories/2592?utm_source=Anglican+Church+of+Canada&utm_campaign=636cc0310b-email&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_6285aca377-636cc0310b-243828149

For most of us, a safe water supply is as Canadian as medicare and the cultural mosaic. But for many indigenous people, clean water is a far cry from reality.

Across Canada, however, Anglicans are beginning to address this issue through anWaterBlessing initiative loosely formed by Bishop Mark MacDonald, national indigenous bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada. MacDonald became aware of an uptick in church interest in 2011 when he raised the water question as keynote speaker at the diocese of Toronto’s annual social justice conference.

“There seemed to be little or no church concern about the water issue, and then all of a sudden, dozens of churches across Canada were interested in advocacy work in clean water for First Nations communities,” says MacDonald, who refers to his role as that of a facilitator.

“Some people just wanted to write a cheque, while others wanted to meet and talk and pray about it,” he recalls.

Now the “water group” meets every couple of months at Trinity Church in Aurora, north of Toronto, in sessions that typically attract about 20 people.

“Right now it’s mainly a spiritual movement, but in a couple of years it may become more of an institution,” he says. “We’re picking up people quickly, and a group is forming in Toronto to help the remote northern Ontario community of Pikangikum with water and other issues.”

The advocates’ ultimate aim is to get the federal government to live up to its legal obligations and spend the estimated $12 billion needed for the infrastructure improvements that will guarantee clean water to indigenous communities. “They refuse to do it,” MacDonald says. “It’s a political hot potato; they don’t want to pick it  up and get stuck with it. But it’s not going to go away.”

The Mennonite Church in Canada has been organizing to put pressure on the government, and the water network is now in conversation with the Assembly of First Nations about the best approach to take with the government.

In the meantime, the group is working on bridge solutions to improve access to clean water or replace broken delivery systems.

The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) and other organizations such as trade unions have become involved in this galvanizing issue. PWRDF, for example, is reviewing a plan to raise $100,000 for the Pikangikum Working Group over the spring and summer months. If the proposal is approved, PWRDF will be able to accept designated donations for it.

Sometimes the health problem in First Nations communities lies in a polluted water source; sometimes the water pipes are contaminated. A pilot project involving a couple of churches in the network has raised more than $10,000 so far for interim measures to improve water quality. These might include hiring trucks to deliver clean water, digging wells, and providing clean containers for carrying water, filtering devices for tap water or portable purification kits. “It’s going better than we ever anticipated, and there has been an amazing amount of  interest in Vancouver and Victoria as part of the network,” MacDonald says.

Gaining momentum, the group may soon officially assume the name Pimatisiwin Nipi (Oji-Cree for “living water”), and it will likely hold a national meeting at some point. “But for now, it’s a community of spiritual concern that stays together in conversation,” says MacDonald.

(Above Photo: The Rev. Andrew Wesley makes an offering to Lake Ontario in an adaptation of the Eastern Orthodox Church’s Great Blessing of the Water.)



Maundy Thursday – the Archbishop and the toilets?

This foot washing thing is a slightly strange ritual –  before I became a priest on Maundy Thursday  I used to give my feet a quick pre-wash and wear sandals in case I was picked to have my feet wash , to avoid the embarrassment of smelly feet. And part of me is quite glad that as a priest I now do the washing instead of having my feet  washed.

This act has lost the incredible power it had when Jesus did it the first time – he and his friends were sitting having a celebratory meal, wearing their good clothes and suddenly he gets up, puts on a towel and kneels down on the floor, and washes those smelly, dusty, mucky, stinky feet.

It is meaningful that this symbol involves washing. Today one of the greatest challenges we face as a world community is that of clean water and sewerage. At the one extreme we have people who have washing machines, dish washers, tumble dryers, and more bathrooms than people in the house. At the other, we have people who carry water long distances on their heads, and wash their clothes in plastic basins, families who share one outside toilet between several homes. In South Africa  communal toilets are often dirty and dangerous as young women who go outside in the middle of the night to use them are at risk of rape.

So what then does the symbol of foot washing mean for us today?

I think firstly on the level of our churches it is a symbol of community. There is a wonderful poem by a Scottish poet, Maureen Sangster (which I have paraphrased into a much more boring English!)

Oh Christ you’re just a minister
You’re nae bloody use to me
You wouldna come and make
My mother’s cup of tea

You’re a stuck up little mannie
Bawking out yer words of Love
For Gods sake come down tae earth
And wear the oven glove

What is this Messiah for
That I must lose my life
Caring for my mother
While my brother has a wife?

If you’d come round on Sunday
Give me a helping hand
One shot of handling the commode
And you would understand

My life is just a constant round
Of meals and bloody peels
If the hand of God is in this, Christ
Its a mystery not revealed.

Within our church community there are many people who feel burdened by the daily round of caring for the old or the young – days filled with washing commodes, washing clothes and sheets, changing nappies, washing dishes. How can we as a church become a real community to those who need us to offer to assist them with their washing?

I remember meeting a pastor from a wonderful church in Nairobi, which had experienced amazing church growth. When I asked (with a tinge of jealousy) how they had achieved it he said that when AIDS was really bad their numbers dropped off terribly. So  they visited church members and harangued them to come back to church. But they realised that many of them could not come to church, and had to stay at home to look after sick family members or neighbours. So they changed their strategy and instead of   preaching at  people to come back to church, they offered them respite care – they stayed with the family member, and offered to wash some dishes, or change an adult diaper, or rinse out a commode while the exhausted person went to church. It is that community-in – action that made the church grow.

What can we learn – what assistance can we give to single mums, carers of the housebound, those who are too frail to get to church without a lift or can’t afford the bus fare? Can offering a home communion be linked with some practical support? Instead of washing feet, can we rinse out a commode? Can we assist single mums with some child minding, wash some clothes, wash some dishes? How can ‘foot washing’ become part of our life as a church community?

On a second and community level – the story of the foot washing is a symbol of the challenge we face to work for a just society – where all have access to clean water, safe sewerage facilities. A society where all can wash with clean water.

In our local township Khayelitsha part of the community was built with communal toilets . In order to save money these toilets were built with no walls – People had to go to the toilet with a blanket over their heads for privacy.

Our archbishop took up the challenge and helped to mobilise religious leaders against this – for a while he was dubbed the ‘toilet archbishop’ . What a high honour in the Kingdom of God, instead of being given an honorary Phd from an eminent institution , to be called the toilet archbishop. I think Jesus would be proud….

Rev Rachel Mash
Environmental Coordinator
Anglican Church of Southern Africa

(inspired by ‘After Virtue’ by Martyn Percy – in darkness yielding)

Archbishop Thabo visiting toilets

Archbishop Thabo visiting toilets


As we complete our focus on water, and move towards week three where the theme changes to the ‘face of climate change (see image) we hear a new scripture, from Isaiah 24:4 – 6

The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers, the exalted of the earth languish. The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the  statutes and broken the everlasting  covenant.

Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt.

Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left.

As a reflection I hope you will enjoy a folk version of a hymn, now quite popular in the Canadian church:

O healing river, send down your waters,

send down your waters upon this land.

O healing river, send down your waters,

and wash the blood from off the sand.


This land is parching, this land is burning,

no seed is growing in the barren ground.

O healing river, send down your waters,

O healing river, send your waters down.


Let the seed of freedom awake and flourish,

let the deep roots nourish, let the tall stalks rise.

O healing river, send down your waters,

O healing river, from out of the skies.

Enjoy, Ken Gray+

p.s. a nice choral version is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AiHXEmsk-0U