Celebrating World Water Day 2023

Film screening and dialogue marks first in-person celebration in Victoria since 2019

Published On: April 18th, 2023

On March 22, 2023, we hosted our first in-person World Water Day event since 2019—a screening of The Soul of the Fraser (Nerv Productions, 2022), followed by an insightful dialogue with a panel of expert guests.

Over 100 people gathered in the University of Victoria’s Bob Wright Centre to watch the film and learn from those working toward watershed security in the Fraser Basin in a variety of meaningful ways.The event was co-hosted by POLIS, Birds Canada, the Centre for Global Studies, BC Nature, the University of Victoria Sustainability Project, and the Victoria Natural History Society.

Songhees Nation Elder Dr. Skip Dick opened the event and welcomed everyone in attendance to lək̓ʷəŋən territory. POLIS’ Shayla Auld then offered some introductory remarks and described the itinerary for the evening.

Songhees Nation Elder Dr. Skip Dick opening the event.

The Soul of the Fraser documentary begins by highlighting the beautiful Fraser River Estuary—a critical migratory ecosystem where millions of birds and billions of fish once thrived. Now, with the unregulated growth of Metro-Vancouver and the threat of the Port of Vancouver’s Roberts Bank Terminal 2 expansion, mere thousands struggle to co-exist. The audience was led through the film by a cast of expert biologists, activists, leaders, community members, graduate students, and artists, who are all searching for ways to save what is left of the Fraser Estuary.

After the film, experts Sarah Nathan (British Columbia Manager of Provincial Operations, Ducks Unlimited Canada), Lindsey Jay Wilson (Hereditary Chief, Hwlitsum First Nation), Chris Jenkins (Co-Director, The Soul of the Fraser) and Fin Donnelly (Parliamentary Secretary for Watershed Restoration, British Columbia) were welcomed to the stage for a roundtable Q&A conversation facilitated by Fin.

Expert guests share their experiences and opinions after the film.

The guests discussed how the incredibly ecologically sensitive and threatened Fraser ecosystem has experienced a long list of developmental pressures for over a century, specifically highlighting the threats posed by the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 expansion. They discussed the failure of government to take corrected action, and how the looming threats from other crises, including the climate crisis and ocean pollution, will continue to stress keystone species in the region, such as salmon and killer whales. The panel highlighted the power of individual voices and discussed ways to develop community-to-government relationships, crisis preparation planning, and the importance of strategic storytelling going forward as a tool to effect positive change.

Tabling outside the theatre, the University of Victoria’s Sustainability Project (UVSP) distributed several copies of the newly released Ripples youth art zine to the community. Part love letter and part call to action, Ripples features artwork, photography, poetry, and prose by students and young professionals, ages 6 to 25, who reside in the watersheds that surround and feed into the Salish Sea. It was created with leadership from the UVSP for World Water Day, with support from POLIS and the Year of the Salish Sea.

Overall, POLIS extends our sincere gratitude to everyone who supported this event and made World Water Day 2023 a great success. We hope the specific day not only served as a powerful reminder of the critical importance of water in all of our lives, but also inspired people to think about how we must continue working together to conserve and protect our local ecosystems for a sustainable, just, and equitable world for many generations (and World Water Days) to come.