Water policy and pathways for changemaking

Tuesday, September 26, 2023
Workshop poster

How can your research impact water policy and protection?

To begin to answer this question the Society of Water Institute Graduate Students (SWIGS) held a policy workshop and discussion on September 13, on how different aspects of research can impact water policy and protection.

Guest speakers included Nancy Goucher, Knowledge Mobilization Specialist, the Water Institute, Dani Lindamood, Programs and Development Director, Water Watchers and Courtney Skye, Co-director, Protect the Tract. 

The workshop marked the start of the 2023 SWIGS educational programming and Collaborative Water Program Students also attended the workshop.

Nancy Goucher walked attendees through an orientation to the legal system in Canada covering topics such as sources of law, the public policy cycle, division of powers, parliament governance and the legislative process. Nancy highlighted opportunities for water researchers to engage in the freshwater policymaking process including through budgetary processes, policy development, and by commenting on government proposals posted on Ontario’s Environmental Registry.

"Researchers should feel empowered, not intimidated by the policy making process", says Nancy. "It's critical for governments to hear from those who think a lot about the best ways to protect water and the natural systems that we rely on."

Courtney Skye, Co-Director from Protect the Tract discussed issues related to Indigenous Peoples and water, highlighting a few Indigenous experiences and perspectives.

Protect the Tract is a Haudenosaunee-led project that conducts research, policy development and develops capacity for political mobilization to enact sovereignty through the promotion of land stewardship over the Haldimand Tract.

Skye challenged to students to recognize how current systems bake in injustice and systemic barriers stop Indigenous Peoples from fully exercising their land stewardship responsibilities.

Dani Lindamood, Programs and Development Director; Water Watchers co-presented with Skye on benefits of building grassroots advocacy power through water and pathways for changemaking.

Dani discussed how her organization evolved their theory of change to recognize the benefits of working outside “The Bubble”, or solely within the water policy domain. They now utilize different approaches to water protection based on the need to consider the role of people, politics and power in government decision making.

The discussion highlighted gaps and voids in our current systems and opportunities that are available to students to create legislative change including legislated process, political process and radical tactics.

“As a hard scientist I like to see how what we do impacts society. It’s fascinating to see the whole process,” said Sarah Kowalczyk, MSc Student, Science/Biology.

The pair left the group with a final message that “Building grassroots power in solidarity with Indigenous peoples and social justice movements is the way to ensure all the waters around us have a better chance for a sustainable, just future with water for all life”.

Learn more about environmental policy and how to inform policy makers from the 2020 Water Institute RBC Distinguished Lecture presented by Dianne Saxe here.

Seminar photo
Dani and Courtney
Menti graphic

Above: Nancy Goucher, Dani Lindamood and Courtney Skye presenting at the policy workshop.
Below: Keywords from workshop attendees on their perception of the state of water in Canada.