Kanada: Maude Barlow

I go crazy when I see certain things and I have to find out why they happen. And I have to tell people. I have to do something so that other people will also take action."

— Maude Barlow

Maude Barlow is the national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, Canada's largest citizen's advocacy organization with more than 100,000 members, and the founder of the Blue Planet Project, which works to stop commodification of the world's water. With more than 35 years of advocacy, grassroots organizing, and social activism, Maude is perhaps Canada's best-known voice of dissent against injustice. She is the recipient of numerous educational awards and has received honorary doctorates from four Canadian universities for her social justice work.

Maude is the middle of three daughters and grew up in a leafy, middle-class neighborhood of Ottawa, Canada. Hers was an idyllic childhood with parents she adored; her mother was a full-time homemaker and her father was a criminal justice advocate. It was her father who inspired Maude's early interest in social activism. He came from a poor Maritime family and put himself through university, earning an MA in social work. He had been witness to wartime atrocities and upon returning home was determined to change things for the better. He became an advocate for the reform of Canada's prison system. "I have to make sense of that [wartime experience] by building something so that my kids do not have to go through that," he said. His zeal for reform left an indelible mark on Maude. Like her father, she became a social crusader taking on all the major social issues of her generation. Yet, her early adulthood echoed that of her mother. In the 1970s, Maude was a middle-class housewife. Eventually she got caught up in the women's movement, the revolutionary social current of her time. "This was a fabulous time to be in on the ground floor of what was just the most exciting movement of its time," she said. She ran the Office of Equal Opportunity at the city of Ottawa. At the age of 36, she catapulted onto the national scene consulting on women's issues for prime minister Pierre Trudeau. She was defeated in her first run for elected office for the Liberal Party, sending her on a new trajectory for her life. From then on, Maude worked to effect change from outside the system.

The Council of Canadians International Forum on Globalization Blue Planet Project