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University of Toronto bottle-free policy has been badly mischaracterized

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University of Toronto bottle-free policy has been badly mischaracterized
We recently read John B. Challinor's response to Rhiannon Kay's article on the University of Toronto's new bottled water free policy. As two students who have been involved with the tap water campaign at U of T since the beginning, it is disappointing to see that this campaign has been badly mischaracterized.
PHOTO CREDIT - Racquel Youtzy

Toronto - November 22, 2011 -

Rhiannon Kay recently wrote a column stating that "September marked the beginning of a bottle-free school for the University of Toronto. Bottled water is no longer being sold or distributed in most places on the University of Toronto campus. "

Following that article, we received an E-mail to the Editor" from the Director of Corporate Affairs of Nestle Canada. We published it in its entirety here.

Today, we received an E-mail to the Editor" from the Public Water Initiative at the University of Toronto. We have published it in its entirety below:

Dear Editor,

We recently read John B. Challinor's response to Rhiannon Kay's article on the University of Toronto's new bottled water free policy. As two students who have been involved with the tap water campaign at U of T since the beginning, it is disappointing to see that this campaign has been badly mischaracterized and littered with misleading statements by someone whose interests are blatantly biased towards selling water for profit.

Mr. Challinor decries the "mythology" behind the bottled water free movement, but the real piece of mythology here is the manipulative advertising employed by bottled water companies that leads consumers to believe bottled water is safer, healthier and a better choice than tap water. More and more citizens are catching on to this falsity, as reflected in declining bottled water sales in Canada over the past few years (Source: CBC News, 2009).

Mr. Challinor suggests in his letter that our ability to access water has been restricted. This is simply not true - water is still widely available, but without the damaging environmental and social effects of bottled water.

The environmental effects of bottled water are easy to identify. The social effects are less obvious but equally as important. The privatization and commodification of water, whether through privatized municipal systems or ownership of water by bottled water companies, places profit above the public interest and protection of something that is so essential for human life.

Another point Mr. Challinor makes is that our "basic right" and "fundamental freedom" to choose has been unduly restricted by this decision. To place a higher value on unlimited consumer choice, rather than the impact of those choices on individuals, is irresponsible. More and more, we are realizing that placing narrow economic gain above public good has disastrous results.

Perhaps most ironic is that Mr. Challinor suggests it is inappropriate for this initiative to have any influence on U of T's policies. Should Nestle have a greater say over the university's policies than its own students and their organizations? This is at least the third time that Nestle has directly attacked U of T's efforts to phase out the sale of bottled water.

It is insulting that Mr. Challinor implies that we have "delegated"our thinking on bottled water to outside organizations. The public water movement is certainly supported by a wide number of organizations, of and the fact that we share a common goal only demonstrates the widespread support for the movement.

U of T's decision on bottled water came after three years of grassroots campaigning and outreach by students, in what has always been an atmosphere of open dialogue. If a wide variety of stakeholders and students are to be considered "special interests"as Mr. Challinor claims, then so be it. That Nestle is suggesting otherwise is a desperate, thinly veiled attempt to bolster their profits.

Sincerely,
Anda Petro and Leanne Rasmussen
Public Water Initiative at the University of Toronto

The views written in the Email to The Editor do not necessarily reflect the views of OurHometown.ca, nor does OurHometown.ca take any responsibility of the views stated by those who write to the editor.


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