The Neighbors Step in

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America’s northern neighbors are coming to the aid of Detroit residents who have been left without water. The Council of Canadians has joined the fray and is taking the fight before the international community.

The council is active around the world, working to ensure people’s access to water. In May, a group of Detroit residents approached chairperson Maude Barlow (above) about their water crisis. Barlow visited Detroit and talked to families who were struggling to keep water running in their homes. She determined that their rights are being violated.

“‘I’ve seen water problems in poor countries and the third world,” she said. “But I’ve never seen this in the United States, never.'”

The council joined with the Detroit People’s Water Board, the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, and Food & Water Watch to make a formal complaint to the United Nations regarding the human rights violations by the city’s appointed emergency manager.  UN experts confirmed that Detroit is violating families’ rights to water and sanitation.

Obviously, neither the Canadian Council nor the UN can force America to address this flagrant human rights abuse. But now America faces the critical scrutiny of the rest of the civilized world.

Meanwhile, to focus more attention on the Detroit residents’ plight, the council’s Windsor chapter has organized a convoy to truck in water on July 24.

The council is also organizing a petition drive to ask President Obama and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder  to intervene on behalf of the Detroit families.

Of course, Snyder isn’t likely to pay any attention to the petition. He is the one responsible for the crisis.

He kicked out Detroit’s elected representatives and replaced them with Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, who promptly rushed the city into bankruptcy and is selling off its assets. The crackdown on delinquent water customers is a step toward privatizing the utility.

It’s a recurring pattern throughout Michigan ever since the Republicans took control of the state.

President Obama’s options are limited by the Constitution. And – with a Republican House –  he is not likely to get congressional support for any action he might propose.

Ultimately, the future of Detroit, the future of Michigan and even the future of the United States rests with Americans. As long as Republicans control state governments and the House of Representatives, this kind of abuse is predictable.

Fortunately the voters get a chance to have their say in a few months.

Click to sign the petition.

Click for more on the Detroit crisis.

Click for more on Detroit’s bankruptcy.