Letter to Lloyd Axworthy regarding: New Protections to Sustain the Great Lakes Needed Without Delay

Title: Letter to Lloyd Axworthy regarding: New Protections to Sustain the Great Lakes Needed Without Delay
Resource Type: Letter
# of Pages: 1
Date authored: May 6, 1998
Author/s: Sarah Miller
Author Organization: Canadian Environmental Law Association

The Honourable Lloyd Axworthy
Minister of Foreign Affairs
125 Sussex
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0G2
Dear Minister Axworthy,

New Protections to Sustain the Great Lakes Needed Without Delay

Thank you for intervening to stop the export of water from Lake Superior by tanker permitted May 1, 1998 by the Province of Ontario. The Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) is writing to you today to urge you to place a moratorium on all export and diversion proposals from the Great Lakes until the Great Lakes jurisdictions can be convened to consider a new international treaty to protect the waters of the Great Lakes. This proposal has highlighted the inadequacies of the existing federal, provincial, state and international policy and legislative framework to protect and sustain the Great Lakes for future generations. We urge you to develop a strategy that does not limit your actions to this individual export permit for water sales in Asia. The Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 and the Great Lakes Charter of 1985, did not anticipate many of the stresses now facing the Great Lakes from global trade of water, climate change, population growth, pending water shortages in North America and elsewhere. We urge you to consider a strategy that will insure the sustainability of this shared ecosystem, one fifth of the fresh water of the world. Canada and her other partners in stewardship of the Great Lakes have a unique opportunity to demonstrate leadership in forging a long-ranging, truly sustainable water strategy for the Great Lakes. The Canadian federal policy on water is inadequate to address proposals of this nature. Our trading partner, the United States has a law, the Water Resources Development Act of 1986 setting out federal powers over Great Lakes waters and requiring State consensus for diversion proposals. Canada and Ontario have no such legislation.We would urge you to start work immediately with your colleague, Environment Minister Christine Stewart, representatives of Ontario and Quebec, the US States and the US Federal government both on a moratorium and a new treaty to protect the Great Lakes now and into the next millennium. While the International Joint Commission (IJC) should be involved in these discussions, they have no authority to resolve these problems. Only the Great Lakes governments have this authority. The International Joint Commission has repeatedly undertaken references, and written reports, such as their excellent 1985 report, Great Lakes Diversions and Consumptive Uses, that have made recommendations for stronger measures to prevent diversions, large withdrawals and exports of Great Lakes waters. If the IJC’s recommendations had been followed, governments could have prevented the continuing crisis management of this significant resource. Your request to the US Federal Government late today for a reference to the IJC will result in unnecessary delays and leave the Great Lakes vulnerable. Last year, CELA and Great Lakes United published a report, The Fate of the Great Lakes – Sustaining or Draining the Sweetwater Seas?, that examined new pressures on the Great Lakes and called for such a strategy to sustain Great Lakes waters. This report outlines the components that a sustainable water strategy for the Great Lakes would include. We are forwarding a copy of this report to you under separate cover. We would be happy to meet with you and your colleagues to discuss measures that could be put in place to protect the Great Lakes for the future. We urge you to include the public in the further resolution of the concerns raised over the past few weeks. The passionate response this proposal received demonstrates the importance of water to Great Lakes residents and all Canadians.

Yours truly,

Canadian Environmental Law Association
Sarah Miller, Coordinator

c.c.Federal Environment Minister, Christine StewartPremier of Ontario Mike HarrisOntario Environment Minister, Norm Sterling Ontario Minister of Natural Resources, John SnobelenQuebec Premier, Lucien Bouchard U. S. Secretary of State, Madeline AlbrightSheila Tooze, Canadian Embassy, Washington D.C.Offices of Great Lakes State GovernorsGreat Lakes CommissionU.S. Commissioners,International Joint Commission, Washington D.C.Canadian Commissioners, International Joint Commission, Ottawa, OntarioStaff, International Joint Commission, Windsor, Ontario