September 20th, 2011
Chief Canada and US Negotiators for the Great Lakes Quality Agreement
The National Council of Women of Canada (NCWC) representing hundreds of thousands of Canadians from diverse and growing constituencies across the country through our 42 federated group members, has advocated for the protection of our water resources for over 100 years and in the past several years we have developed policies specifically related to the protection of the irreplaceable Great Lakes/St. Lawrence River waters and related eco-systems that are relied upon by so many millions of people on both sides of the Canada/US border .
More specifically, in 2005 NCWC attended several meetings about and commented on the Great Lakes Charter Annex Agreements, and , through a resolution approved at our 2005 Annual General Meeting we urged the Federal Government among other things to :
a) support the Great Lakes Quality Agreement , its 1978 and 1987 Protocol Commitments and the Annex 2 Commitments on Remedial Action Plans for Areas of Concern through funding, strong legislation and enforcement , and strengthen the ‘Agreement’ through new ‘Protocols’ where necessary, and
b )fund and support with legislation, the development of comprehensive plans to fulfill the vision of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement for a clean and healthy Great Lakes ecosystem
Since then, progress in these areas has been very slow and, as our federated member group the Provincial Council of Women of Ontario has pointed out to you, the growing plethora of threats to the Great Lakes /St. Lawrence River system, such as climate change , invasive species, transport of nuclear waste, planned new nuclear plants and dumps on the shores of the Great Lakes, nuclear plant releases of tritiated water and other industrial waste releases, have multiplied rapidly. In addition we note the interest in drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and that chemical, petroleum and nuclear, industries are rumored to be pressing for a loosening of restrictions.
Therefore we are most concerned that despite our genuine optimism that the GLWQA would be strengthened when the original announcement of the commencement of your bi-national negotiations was made two years ago, instead, it may well be weakened.
We say this, because of the slow and less than transparent negotiations to date,(actually spanning 7 years); the exclusion of the St. Lawrence River , a vital part of the Great Lakes eco system, from the negotiations; the dearth of information released; and the lack of serious public involvement and opportunity for comment .
NCWC respectfully calls upon you as Chief Canada/US Negotiators for the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement to bring the public into the negotiations through a series of public meetings, such as those held for the Great Lakes Charter Annex Agreements , as well as providing opportunities for public comment on any ‘Draft Agreement” that is issued.
Only in this way can such a long standing and exceptionally important agreement to protect the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence River effectively be brought into the 21st century with enough strength to make a difference well into the future.
Denise Mattok, President NCWC
194 Latchford Road Ottawa K1Z 5W2 Mtok@rogers.com
cc Prime Minister Stephen Harper
The Hon Peter Kent, Minister of Environment
National Council of Women of Canada