Media Release

Debate on Water Cycles Back to the Need for Action: IJC Releases Final Report on Great Lakes Water Uses Reference

Mar 15 2000

The International Joint Commission (IJC) today released its final report on the Great Lakes Water Uses Reference sought by the Canadian and US governments. Widespread public opposition to the large-scale removal of Great Lakes water created an international maelstrom in the spring and summer of 1998, when Ontario granted a license to the Nova Group to export water from Lake Superior to China. Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy and US Secretary of State Madeline Albright stepped in and several months later, in February of 1999, asked for the IJC reference. The IJC has laid out a step by step prescription for governments' action, in this, their third report on management of the Great Lakes in fifteen years. "Had the recommendations of previous reports been followed, we wouldn't find ourselves doing continuous crisis management in the Great Lakes," said Sarah Miller, water policy expert with the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA). "We agree with the IJC that the federal and provincial governments can and should act to protect the ecosystem integrity of the Great Lakes. Because we share public concerns regarding the vulnerability of the Great Lakes to trade challenges, we cannot wait to protect our water. We need to act now by passing enforceable conservation-based laws to protect ecosystem integrity," said Theresa McClenaghan, counsel with CELA. The Commission has done a thorough job in debunking the myth that the Great Lakes are bottomless. In 1997, CELA and Great Lakes United published a report titled The Fate of the Great Lakes: Sustaining or Draining the Sweetwater Seas?, which accurately predicted that the inadequacy of government action would lead to conflict and turmoil over water uses. "We cannot afford to put this IJC report on the back burner. The Canadian Environmental Law Association is working with the environmental community around the Great Lakes to draft model legislation for presentation to governments," Sarah Miller noted. - 30 - For more information: Sarah Miller, Coordinator, CELA, 416-960-2284Theresa McClenaghan, Counsel, CELA 416-960-2284