Canadian teen tells UN ‘warrior up’ to protect water More It’s time to "warrior up," stop polluting the planet and give water the same rights and protections as human beings. That’s the message Autumn Peltier, a 13-year-old Canadian, delivered personally to the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday.
"Many people don’t think water is alive or has a spirit," the Anishinaabe girl from Wikwemikong First Nation told the diplomats gathered in New York City in her speech on World Water Day. "My people believe this to be true.
"Our water deserves to be treated as human with human rights. We need to acknowledge our waters with personhood so we can protect our waters."
The five-foot tall teen from Manitoulin Island, Ont., stood on a stool behind the podium so she could reach the microphone.
She had been invited to speak as the "representative of civil society," joining UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and other international dignitaries for the launch the UN’s International Decade for Action on Water for Sustainable Development.
"By 2050, at least one in four people will live in a country where the lack of fresh water is chronic or recurrent," Guterres said during his address.
States need to better manage and preserve world water resources, he said. More than 2.1 billion people already lack safe drinking water at home, according to UN figures — and that includes people in Canada.
"No one should have to worry if the water is clean or if they will run out of water," Peltier said in her speech. "No child should grow up not knowing what clean water is or never know what running water is.
"We all have a right to this water as we need it — not just rich people, all people."
Brenden Varma, spokesperson for the president of the General Assembly, said "it’s definitely not very common to see a 13-year old girl addressing the 193 member states of the United Nations."
"We’re used to having world leaders … often speaking very bureaucratic language," he said.
Varma said hearing Peltier give such a heartfelt address was a treat for everyone in the room.
"We were all very moved," he said. "She was amazing."
– WATCH: Rosemary’s Barton’s interview with Autumn Peltier for The National about what motivates her, and the ups and downs of speaking out on important issues
Henk Ovink described Peltier’s speech as inspiring and "in our faces as leaders of the world." The special envoy for international water affairs for the Netherlands said collaborating with those who will inherit the Earth is essential.
"It’s the young that can help us leap forward, so we have to listen to the young and implement their ideas," Ovink said.Peltier told CBC News after her address that she wasn’t nervous speaking in front of the General Asembly."I felt like they all wanted to hear what I had to say, and I felt heard," she said. "It’s just a great feeling to be speaking in front of world leaders."She said it took her three days to write the speech, which she very nearly didn’t get to deliver.Autumn’s mother, Stephanie Peltier, said she was in the middle of an email purge when the UN invitation arrived. "I said this is probably a scam, and I almost deleted it."Then their flight from Toronto to New York was cancelled three times. So she and her mother ended up driving all the way — a 15-hour trip."I am really proud," said Stephanie Peltier, who is a single parent. "I never imagined I’d be sitting here with her speaking at the United Nations."This wasn’t Peltier’s first speech. The resident of the Wikwemikong Unceded Territory has become a well-known […]
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