On the evening of Tuesday, November 12, 2019, Wellington Water Watchers (a non-profit organization committed to protecting drinking water from Nestlé in Wellington County in Ontario) hosted, “All Eyes on Nestlé” at the University of Toronto, St. George Campus. With an enthusiastic turn out, many audience members were passionate about learning of the transnational activism taking place globally to stop the exploitation and privatization of water in communities, including France, Switzerland, Brazil and Ontario.

The evening began with a short video presentation titled, “Why we must Say No to Nestle”. This video emphasized the negative impacts of corporations extracting water from communities, despite fresh water becoming increasingly scarce for many. It is available of viewing here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bzgJuf1IxM

Since 2007, Wellington Water Watcher’s has become an increasigly successful interest group, gaining the right to asses and challenge proposed settlements between Nestlé and the Ministry of Ontario in regards to water extraction.

Bernhard and Renée-Lise Schmitt, founders of Collectif Eau 88 are from a small community in Northeastern France, known as Vitell. At this event, they spoke about their experience organizing to protect source water from Nestlé in their community. Many people in Vitell were afraid of challenging Nestle in fear of losing their jobs, however, support from local villages to stop Nestlé demonstrated their efforts of citizen action through strategy and cooperation needed to make a change. Renee-Lise Schmitt shared her sentiments on climate change and said “…it needs to be recognized as a problem of everyday life. The water problem is making this increasingly visible.”

Contributing to the evening’s discussion was Hirat Melaku, an MES candidate from Montreal, Canada. She advocates for women on the benefits of breast/chest feeding with a focus on racial and LGBQT equity. Part of her current research is working to interrogate the practices of Nestlé for promoting formula as superior to breast/chest milk, similar to how cigarette companies used to use doctors to advertise smoking. She draws the connection of how certain practices of Western knowledge undermines the confidence of Mothers in less educated communities. She is working to bridge the gaps between environmental justice, human rights and reproductive justice in her studies.

The closing presenter was political and environmental writer and activist Franklin Frederick who discussed the campaign working to prevent Nestlé from extracting water in São Lourenço, Brazil. Frederick’s efforts have exposed the workings of Nestlé and the Swiss government against non-profits and grassroots groups critical of Nestlé’s operations. In 2013, the Swiss court convicted Nestlé for organizing illegal espionage operations in Brazil. Frederick encourages people to think about countries with weaker democracies where Nestlé’s has more power to potentially impose more of its operations.

This was the second of a series of public events Wellington Water Watchers is sponsoring taking place in Toronto! A special thanks to the Wellington Water Watchers, KAIROS: Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, Council of Canadians – Toronto Chapter, and SafelyFed Canada and New College at the University of Toronto for sponsoring the event.

Blog Written by: Nasreen Hussain