Remembering Water: Immigrant water narratives in Waterloo Region
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What water priorities are embedded in the personal water narratives of immigrants in Waterloo Region? How can immigrant water meanings transform local waters? The purpose of this qualitative research was to understand immigrants’ diverse experiences of water and consider what immigrants might contribute to the Canadian water agenda. Fifteen adult immigrants in Waterloo Region were recruited through opportunistic and snowball sampling methods, drawing from the researcher’s personal connections with immigrant settlement organizations and the broader community. Participants offered their water narratives through oral history interviews and follow-up group discussions. Following a collaborative oral history approach, participants were invited to share authority in the thematic analysis of the water narratives. Research into water meanings, translocality, and placemaking offered a theoretical context for the interpretation process. During interviews and follow-up group discussions participants emphasized water’s sacredness and cultural importance, and voiced concerns about who controls water and how we—individually and collectively—can take more responsibility for water. As water practitioners and advocates strive for changes in local water culture, immigrants should not be overlooked as potential agents of change. This research indicates that immigrants may have strong motivations to protect Canada’s waters and contribute to placemaking efforts through which local waters can be restored and revered.