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Past Events

Lost Rivers: Canada Water Week Film Screening & Panel Discussion

Where: University of Victoria, Hickman Building, Room 105

Join us this Canada Water Week for a film screening and panel discussion exploring the long history and interactions between natural waterways and our urban environments. The film Lost Rivers (CatBird Films) will take us across the globe, retracing the history of lost urban rivers by plunging into archival maps and going underground with clandestine urban explorers. We’ll search for the disappeared Petite Rivière St-Pierre in Montreal, the River Tyburn in London, England, the Saw Mill River in New York, and the Bova-Celato River in Bresica, Italy. Could we see these rivers again? To find the answer, we’ll meet visionary urban thinkers, activists and artists from around the world.

Following the film, we will turn our thinking to local water priorities in the Victoria region—including green infrastructure, stormwater utilities, and collaborative restoration efforts—through a moderated panel discussion with local experts:

  • Scott Murdoch, Registered Landscape Architect, Murdoch de Greeff Inc.
  • Ed Robertson, Assistant Director of Public Works, City of Victoria
  • Nikki Curnow, Coordinator, Bowker Creek Initiative
  • Kirk Stinchcombe, Sustainability Specialist, Econics & Stratetic Advisor, POLIS Water Sustainability Project (moderator)

This event is being hosted by the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance at the University of Victoria’s Centre for Global Studies, the Capital Regional District, and the University of Victoria Department of Geography.

For more information please contact Laura Brandes at or 250-721-8189. To download the event poster, click here.

Watersheds 2014: Towards Watershed Governance in BC and Beyond, Three-Day Forum

From January 27th to 29th, the POLIS Water Sustainability Project co-hosted the three-day forum Watersheds 2014: Towards Watershed Governance in British Columbia and Beyond.

WHAT: Watersheds 2014: Towards Watershed Governance in British Columbia and Beyond
DATE(S): January 27th to 29th, 2014
LOCATION: Cowichan Tribes territory in Duncan, BC

The forum attracted nearly 200 delegates, plus an additional over 75 virutal participants via online satellite events across the country. The delegates came from a diversity of backgroundsincluding watershed groups, researchers, professional resource managers, and decision-makers at all levels of government, including First Nationsand came together to re-envision the way we use, share and respect our freshwater and watershed resources.

For forum proceedings, consensus, participant feedback and PDFs of select presentations, read the Watersheds 2014 webpage

Webinar—Freshwater Priorities: Where We Are & Where We're Heading

On January 22nd, the POLIS Water Sustainability Project hosted the first webinar in its 2013/2014 Creating a Blue Dialogue webinar series.

WHAT: Freshwater Priorities: Where We Are & Where We're Heading
DATE: Wednesday January 22, 2014
TIME: 9 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. PT (12 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. ET)

This webinar draws on guest speaker David Rapport's (Principal, EcoHealth Consulting) extensive work on ecosystem health to explore innovative solutions for healthy ecosystems and healthy people. Bringing a global perspective to current freshwater issues and priorities, David discusses the global water crisis and where we are, where we’re heading, and what me might do, at all levels, to address critically important water issues. This webinar also served as a virtual lead-in to the watershed governance forum, Watersheds 2014: Towards Watershed Governance in B.C. and Beyond, held in Duncan, B.C. in January 2014.

Webinar—A Modernized Water Act & B.C.’s Expanding Natural Gas Sector

This is the second webinar in the POLIS Water Sustainability Project's 2013/2014 Creating a Blue Dialogue webinar series.

Webinar Summary

In this webinar, resource policy analyst Ben Parfitt explored some of the complex issues surrounding projected increases in industrial water use in northeast B.C. and how the management and oversight of water use may be impacted by proposed changes to provincial water legislation. He demonstrated projected water use increases for the province under an unfolding natural gas sector, and the major implications for how water use is tracked, and how pre-development planning may need to change in order to ensure watershed integrity. James Tate, a lawyer specializing in Aboriginal law, then discussed some of his work with Fort Nelson First Nation and the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations District Water Manager related to the authorization of long-term water licences for fracking purposes in the Fort Nelson territory.

Guest Speakers

Ben Parfitt, Resource Policy Analyst, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) & Research Associate, POLIS Water Sustainability Project
James Tate, Partner, Ratcliff & Company Lawyers

Upcoming Webinars

Stay tuned for more information on upcoming webinars in the POLIS Water Sustainability Project's Creating a Blue Dialogue webinar series! For more information, contact Laura Brandes at

View archived webinars from past seasons.

Human Rights and Political Apology: What comes after the government says "sorry"?

Documentary film screening of “A Sorry State” and facilitated panel discussion with film director Mitchell Miyagawa and political scientist Dr. Matt James that will provide space for participants to explore three landmark political apologies across diverse cultural and historical settings and the implications for human rights, social justice, conflict resolution and peace-making. Co-sponsored by UVic Equity and Human Rights Office, UVic Centre for Global Studies, UVic Social Justice Studies Program.


Location:  Harry Hickman Building, Room 105


Cost: Free and open to the public, everyone welcome

Webinar—Understanding B.C.’s Waterscape: The Emerging “Water Movement” & the Power of the Poll

This was the first webinar in the POLIS Water Sustainability Project's 2013/2014 Creating a Blue Dialogue webinar series. It was presented in partnership with the Canadian Freshwater Alliance with support from the Canadian Water Network.

Webinar Summary

What exactly does the average person think about water in Canada? And what does this mean for freshwater sustainability in British Columbia? Over the past two years, the Canadian Freshwater Alliance has been working with pollster Angus McAllister to undertake opinion research on public attitudes on freshwater protection in Canada. This has involved a series of focus groups in B.C., as well as a nationwide public opinion survey. In this webinar, Angus shared findings from his research, and outcomes from this latest poll. These findings point to important lessons for groups and organizations working on freshwater protection that want to better engage the public in critical conversations and action. Consultant Tim Morris—co-author of the POLIS/REFBC report The State of the Water Movement in British Columbia—discussed B.C.’s emerging on-the-ground “water movement” and how leadership for freshwater protection can be strengthened to help British Columbia reach its potential to become a global leader in freshwater protection and sustainability.

Guest Speakers

Angus McAllister, Principal, Fathom6 Strategies
Tim Morris, Principal, Tim Morris Consulting & Co-Author, The State of the Water Movement in British Columbia

Upcoming Webinars

Stay tuned for more information on upcoming webinars in the POLIS Water Sustainability Project's Creating a Blue Dialogue webinar series! For more information, contact Laura Brandes at

View archived webinars from past seasons.

New Report "The State of the Water Movement in British Columbia: A Waterscape Scan and Needs Assessment of B.C. Watershed-Based Groups"

Released on July 17th, the new report The State of the Water Movement in British Columbia compiles the perspectives and opinions of a diverse mix of British Columbia’s water leaders. This comprehensive assessment of the B.C. water community is the first of its kind; a survey was sent to over 230 water groups and interviews were conducted with 11 selected water champions.

This report was co-published by the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance and the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia, in partnership with the Polis Foundation, to better understand the capacity, needs, and priorities of the freshwater community in B.C., and to identify some priorities for building the necessary leadership and capacity for freshwater protection in the province.  Read more and download the report.

The Future of our Watershed: Resilience and Local Control, Public Event

Where: Quw'utsun' Cultural and Conference Centre, 200 Cowichan Way, Duncan

Cost: Free

On June 25th, the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance co-hosted a public talk and panel discussion in partership with the Cowichan Watershed Board and One Cowichan. The event focussed on resilience planning, and the potential for this approach in the Cowichan watershed.

The event explored the importance of "resilience thinking"  the ability to deal with change in a watershed. Guest speaker Ryan Plummer (Environmental Sustainablity Research Centre, Brock University) discussed how the world is changing, and how the traditional watershed management model is no longer viable. Drawing on progressive examples from around the world, his talk highlighted new tools and emerging approaches for dealing with crises and the need for strong watershed governance. Following the talk, local panelists David Slade (Cowichan Watershed Board), Tim Kulchyski (Cowichan Tribes), and Jane Kilthei (One Cowichan) discussed perspectives from the Cowichan watershed, and the issue of local control. An open question and answer period followed.


Webinar—Giving Nature a Voice: Legal Rights of Waterways

This is the fifth, and final, webinar in the POLIS Water Sustainability Project's 2012/2013 Creating a Blue Dialogue webinar series. We will return in the fall of 2013. View archived webinars.

Webinar Summary

The weaknesses of our environmental laws stem in large part from the fact that the overarching legal system treats the natural world as property that can be exploited and degraded, rather than as an integral ecological partner with its own rights to exist and thrive. While our laws focus on the rights and needs of people to flourish, they pay relatively little attention to the same rights on the part of the natural world. They assume that the environment will be protected if humans take from it a little less, and a little less quickly. But this simply slows, never stops, the downward slide. Drawing on case studies from around the world—including the Whanganui River in New Zealand—the guest speakers will discuss the importance of rights of waterways, progress that has been made, and challenges that lie ahead.

For more information, including pre-webinar reading material, visit the POLIS Water Sustainability Project website.

Guest Speakers

Linda Sheehan
Executive Director, Earth Law Center

Vernon Tava
Solicitor, Grey Lynn Neighbourhood Law Office, New Zealand

To register email Laura Brandes at

Webinar—When the Water Dries Up: Lessons from the Failure of Water Entitlements in Canada and the U.S.


This is the fourth webinar in the POLIS Water Sustainability Project's 2012/2013 Creating a Blue Dialogue webinar series. View archived webinars from past seasons.

Webinar Summary

Problem-solving ways to adapt to water scarcity is becoming an increasingly real issue, both globally and in North America. However, this problem‐solving is often challenged—and sometimes even halted—when legal entitlements (or “rights”) to water are exerted. Legal entitlements can undermine attempts at progressive water management approaches that, for example, address increased water scarcity due to over-allocation or a changing climate. In this webinar, the guest speakers will discuss how our historic reliance on individual “rights” to water is, in fact, often at odds with the on-the-ground responses of licence holders to water scarcity: when faced with scarcity, licence holders will frequently forego their legal entitlements in favour of negotiated, local solutions in their watershed. Using the Klamath Basin Agreements of 2010 as an example of a recent, complex and comprehensive approach to resolving problems with water scarcity, the speakers will discuss the gap between on-the-ground practice and legal concept in theory.

For more information, including pre-webinar reading material, visit the POLIS Water Sustainability Project website.

Guest Speakers

Deborah Curran
Hakai Professor in Environmental Law and Sustainability & Program Director, Environmental Law Centre, University of Victoria Faculty of Law

Glen Spain
Northwest Regional Director, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations

To register email Laura Brandes at