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Looking 12 Months Back - some progress

Updated: Apr 25, 2023

2020 was the year our project developed an original engagement poster and related video to introduce the project’s main themes to a wider audience. With the creative hand of Jenna Kessler, Paul Baines was able to co-create this colourful and informative poster with the Steering Committee (Sr. Bonnie Chesser, Sr. Anne Karges, Sr. Cecily Hewitt, Sr. Jean Leahy, Sr. Loretta Manzara, and Associates Shirley Favot, Patricia Cliza, Jennifer Michel, Violet Lanthier, and Rita Pulice).

500 copies were printed with about 100 being mailed out across the Federation this Spring. The remainder will be used at events and distributed through a growing outreach network. Titled One River, Two Futures: reflections on water, this poster animates critical choices and reflective questions about our relationship with water.

To promote the poster and highlight several voices across the Federation, we made a 12 minute video which is now on our new Youtube channel, our new Facebook page, and will be submitted to the next WaterDocs film festival. Paul Baines introduced the project and let seven others explain what ‘reflections on water’ this poster sparked for them. He recorded people over Zoom and edited them all together. A big thanks to: Sr. Janet Speth, Sr. Loretta Manzara, Sr. Bonnie Chesser, Jennifer Michel, Rita Pulice, Leah Watkiss, and Sr. Anne Karges.

Bottled Water Advocacy

It was a giant year for the issue of bottled water in Ontario. A few news highlights:

· A second 6-month extension on the current moratorium for new bottled water permits (with the possibility of a third extension).

· The Province announced it was looking for input on its draft new regulations for permits to take water.

· The announcement that Nestlé was going to sell its operations (not its brand) to Ice River Springs, but then the sale was held up by regulatory approval.

Our project has been supporting this work every step of the way. In February, a CSJ delegation joined other groups such as Save Our Water to show our solidarity in the phasing out of this industry. Delegates included: Varka Kalaydzhieva, Sr. Mary Fatta, Sr. Janet Fraser, Sr. Betty Lou Knox, Sr. Dorothy Schwietzer and Sr. Anne Karges. A blog post was written about the details.

Our project prompted dozens of CSJ submissions to the Province about the proposed bottled water rules. Paul Baines researched and wrote a guiding letter to support our united voices and to navigate the Ministry’s public comment process. A few of the letters were also shared with him and it was truly a group effort to show our spirited response. Our voices were combined with thousands of others across the Province thanks to other groups such as the Wellington Water Watchers, Environmental Defence, the Council of Canadians, Save Our Water, and so many more.

Photo by Paul Baines. Salmon return to the Otonabee river.

Blog Posts

In the past 12 months our website has had 13 new blog posts written to highlight and unpack critical moments in our water justice journey. Paul Baines wrote 10 of them with 3 written by guest contributors. In total these had 611 reads, with 200 alone for just water permit review. The titles included:

  • Going International to Stop Nestlé Locally (guest contributor Mike Balkwill, 22 views)

  • I Am Water: introduce yourself with water (124 views)

  • Selling Our Story: a lesson in engagement (19 views)

  • Being Salmon, Being Human: from enlightenment to enlivenment (51 views)

  • Saving Water from Commercial Bottling at Queen’s Park (guest contributor Sr. Anne Karges, 36 views)

  • Public Health and the Right to Clean Water (57 views)

  • I Thirst – a painting during COVID-19 (guest contributor Sr. Betty Lou Knox, 12 a views)

  • On a Mission for the Ocean (30 views)

  • Submit Your Comments About Bottled Water (200 views)

  • A People’s Campaign for Water Justice – Part 1: Plastics (35 views)

  • A People’s Campaign for Water Justice – Part 2: Privatization (16 views)

  • Aqua fons vitae, “water is a source of life” (4 views)


While 2020 has been a challenge for events, we were able to host and participate in a number of them. These included:

  • September 26-29, Water Justice in a Climate Emergency, London (participation)

  • November 11-14th All Eyes On Nestlé, Guelph (participation)

  • January 11, Water is the First Medicine, Villa St. Joseph Ecology & Spirituality Centre, Cobourg (host)

  • January 24, There’s Something in the Water, ReFrame Film festival, Peterborough, (sponsorship and introduction from the stage)

  • February 1 and 2, Being Salmon, Being Human: the performance, Peterborough (The Mount), Cobourg (Villa St. Joseph) (host)

  • February 27th, Save Our Water is going to Queen's Park, Toronto (participation)

  • June 24, SSM Congregation Becoming a Blue Community talk for Associates, Online (host)

  • June 11, Plastic, Plastic Everywhere!, Online (participation)

  • July 13. All Eyes on Nestlé: is this really goodbye? Online (participation)

  • July 14. Resisting Water Privatization: from Mapleton ON to Berlin, Online (participation)

  • September 21, Walking the Talk: activating for the water, Online (host)

  • September 26. Watershed 2020: towards a water justice agenda. Online (participation)

Because of COVID-19 there was effort put into attending more events but they were cancelled. We hope to participate as soon as they are rescheduled. These events included:

  • Toronto at the WaterDocs film festival

  • Hay River at the Catholic Women’s League Diocesan Convention

  • London at the Go Wild Grow Wild Expo

  • Rochester at the Sisters of St. Joseph Lakes Region planning meeting

  • France and Switzerland as part of an international Say No To Nestlé delegation (Sr. Anne was to attend)


So much of this work includes communication across and beyond the Federation. I use several strategies for this including a new Facebook page (44 followers, 87 video views), Youtube channel (our video now has 326 views), email list (24 subscribers), our blog posts (611 reads), and a regular project update sent to the communications person for each Congregation. These updates are also archived on our website which is updated every few weeks with new resources and events. Just in the past 12 months these email updates have included 91 project updates, invites, news items, and examples of water justice in action.


With the help of the Steering Committee, Varka Kalaydzhieva, and Lisa Tabachnick, we now also have an outreach list of 53 people and organizations. Some of these contacts are for allies Paul has already been in contact with these past two years, but most of them are groups that he knows very little about. This list will facilitate our poster distribution as well our advocacy and event efforts in the years to come.

Paul has been meeting regularly with a small group in Sudbury, thanks to the leadership of Sr. Bonnie Chesser. It was great to travel up there last winter to participate with Bonnie and Rita in an Engagement Organizing workshop hosted by the Canadian Freshwater Alliance. This gave us new energy and networks for connecting about water issues. Through this workshop we met Naomi Grant (Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury) and Jennifer Babin-Fenske (EarthCare Coordinator for the City of Greater Sudbury). Paul have also been in contact with Michaela Penwarden-Watson (Plastic Free Greater Sudbury) about a possible joint movie screening of the Story of Plastic.

Our original effort to research the ways Sudbury could become a Blue Community was halted when we found out that part of the wastewater operations for the City is outsourced to a private company. COVID-19 has also hampered our progress since we had plans to collaborate with a variety of local environmental groups this Fall and Summer on things such as shoreline clean-ups and connecting with schools. Once these groups return to their operations, our Blue Community efforts will be welcomed.

With the support of a few others, we wrote an endorsement letter for the City of London to become a Blue Community. The London Chapter of the Council of the Canadians are the main organizers of this initiative and they were very happy with our support letter.

And that's just the past 12 months. See the rest of our blog posts, news updates, and newsletters for more.

By Paul Baines
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