Rod Phillips, minister of the environment, conservation and parks and Grand Council Chief Glen Hare co-chaired the Great Lakes Guardians’ Council on April 23, 2019 to discuss challenges and opportunities around the Great Lakes.
The council includes leaders from across Ontario including municipalities, First Nations and Métis communities, environmental organizations, and the science community. The council meeting updated participants on issues such as excess road salt, plastic pollution, harmful algae, and sewer overflows in waterways. The council also discussed the Government of Ontario’s efforts to update its Great Lakes Strategy and its negotiations with the federal government around a new Canada-Ontario Agreement on water quality and ecosystem health in the Great Lakes.
“This was my first meeting with the Great Lakes Guardians’ Council and the exchange of ideas from partners around the table and dialogue about how to tackle the pressures on our water resources and protect our Great Lakes was extremely valuable,” said Minister Phillips. “We will take what we learned from today’s council meeting along with future consultations to inform the actions we will take together to protect our Great Lakes and keep our water clean.”
The meeting also honoured the legacy of the late Josephine Mandamin, an Anishinaabe grandmother, Elder, water protector, and activist. In 2003, she co-founded Mother Earth Water Walk, circumnavigating the shores of all five Great Lakes to raise awareness about the condition of these waterways. Josephine’s total kilometres walked for the water has been tallied at over 25,000 kilometers. In the role of Chief Commissioner of the Anishinabek Nation Women’s Water Commission, Josephine was a predominant contributor and respected leader at the Great Lakes Guardians’ Council.
“Through all of the years of Josephine’s determination and dedication to raise awareness through her legendary Great Lakes Water Walks, it is my hope that the world hears her message – that water is life!” said Grand Council Chief Hare. “Our world is a better place because of Josephine’s efforts and those of us who will continue her work to protect our life-giving Nibi, not only to honour her legacy, but to ensure water, the world over, is protected. What a remarkable Anishinaabkwe we have had the absolute pleasure of knowing and learning from.”
Convening the Great Lakes Guardians’ Council is part of the government’s Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan. The plan aims to protect our air, land and water, prevent and reduce litter and waste, support Ontarians to continue to do their share to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and help communities and families increase their resilience to climate change. As part of the Environment Plan, the Government of Ontario will release a water discussion paper in the coming weeks to engage the public in a dialogue about key actions we can take to better protect our water resources.