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Anishinabek Nation, Canada and US mayors call for stricter rules for water withdrawals from the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence

by pmnationtalk on November 30, 201870 Views

Anishinabek Nation, Canada and US mayors call for stricter rules for water withdrawals from the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence

COLLINGWOOD (November 30, 2018) — For the first time, Canada and United States mayors from the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative and Anishinabek Nation leadership have joined together to call for stricter rules for any new water withdrawals from the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence. More specifically, they are asking the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Water Resources Council (Compact Council) and Regional Body to reconsider and defer the adoption of proposed changes to the procedures for reviewing requests for water withdrawals. This is especially important given that there are several newly elected Governors and Premiers in the region that have not yet had an opportunity to review these vitally important rules.

The mayors and the Anishinabek Nation entered a process of good faith discussions with the Compact Council over the last 14 months to improve the procedures and are disappointed with the results. During this review period, the mayors and the Anishinabek Nation sought to work collaboratively with the Compact Council, and advised the Compact Council of several critical flaws contained in the existing procedures. The Compact Council ignored many of the concerns of the mayors, the Anishinabek Nation and other concerned stakeholders in the Great Lakes region. Instead, the Compact Council is seeking to push through revisions at their next meeting. It is clear that further improvements to the proposed procedures are needed.

The mayors and the Anishinabek Nation share two main concerns regarding the proposed procedures for reviewing diversion requests. The concerns are:

  1. The procedures should allow for increased stakeholder participation and information sharing during the review process; however, this is not the case with the new proposed rules. For example, the proposed rules do not require sufficient public participation in each of the areas of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region, thereby not allowing all voices be heard; and
  2. The proposed procedures fail to correct many of the weaknesses in the Compact Council’s ability to properly review and enforce diversion requests. For example, the proposed procedures do not explicitly acknowledge the role that the Compact Council must play in helping to monitor and enforce an applicant’s compliance with a diversion request once the request has been approved.

There are other deficiencies in the proposed procedures that the mayors, the Anishinabek Nation and other stakeholders have also noted. Should the new rules be adopted as proposed, it would be a lost opportunity to increase protection for an important strategic resource and public engagement.

Quotes:

“Today, the Anishinabek Nation leadership is seeking to ensure that the Great Lakes and the St.

Lawrence River are subject to stronger rules and improved accommodation and recognition of

Anishinabek inherent rights, Aboriginal and treaty rights where there is an interest within the scope of the Compact Council and Regional Body on water withdrawal. Water is the Lifeblood of Mother Earth – we must do what we can to protect it.” – Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Glen Hare

“As mayors in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence region, we demand stronger rules on new water withdrawals and the Compact Council’s proposed revisions need to be improved.”- Mayor Sandra Cooper, Chair of the Great Lakes and St Lawrence Cities Initiative and Mayor of Collingwood

“The mayors want to make clear our disappointment with the new proposed procedures that leave our waters vulnerable. We call on members of the Compact Council and Regional Body to defer adoption of the proposed changes, so they can be revisited by the newly elected Governors and Premiers.” – Mayor Mike Vandersteen, Mayor of Sheboygan, Wisconsin

The Anishinabek Nation is the political advocate for 40 member communities across Ontario, representing approximately 60,000 people. The Anishinabek Nation is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires, which existed long before European contact.

The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative is a binational coalition of over 100 mayors and other local officials that works actively with federal, state, provincial, tribal, and first nation governments and other stakeholders to advance the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. For more information, please visit http://glslcities.org

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For more information please contact:

Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

John Dickert
Phone: (262) 930-5555
E-mail: john.dickert@glslcities.org

Anishinabek Nation Lands and Resources
DepartmentCameron Welch
Phone: (705) 497-9127 ext. 2283
E-mail: cameron.welch@anishinabek.ca
Scott McKay (bilingual)
Phone: (514) 618-0297
E-mail: scott.mckay@glslcities.org 
Cameron Welch
Phone: (705) 497-9127 ext. 2283
E-mail: cameron.welch@anishinabek.ca
To arrange a media interview, please contact:

Great Lakes St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

Jane Eagleton
Phone: (918) 845-1340
E- mail: jane.eagleton@glslcities.org

Anishinabek Nation Policy and Communications Department

Laura Barrios, Communications Officer
Phone: (705) 497-9127 ext. 2339
E-mail: laura.barrios@anishinabek.ca

 


 

Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

On November 30, 2018, Anishinabek Nation leadership and Canadian and American municipal leaders gathered together for the first time for a news conference in Collingwood, Ontario, united in calling for a change to the proposed procedures for water withdrawals from the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence. The Anishinabek Nation joined the mayors in cautioning the Compact Council and Regional Body against the new proposed procedures which would weaken the protection against large water withdrawals, and so weaken the protection of these national freshwater treasures. The Anishinabek Nation and the mayors of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative are requesting that the Compact Council and Regional Body defer their December decision on the proposed procedures to allow additional time for review.

Issue 1—Insufficient Opportunity for Public Involvement:

  • Despite the broad statement within in the Compact Agreement, the Compact Council has refused to adopt two provisions which would clearly promote the level of public involvement anticipated by the Compact:
  1. Whenever any diversion request is considered, the Compact Council should require that every member state and province hold a public meeting or hearing in its jurisdiction regarding all diversion proposals.
  2. Whenever the final version of an approved diversion varies substantially from the version that the public was allowed to review and comment on, the Council should permit another opportunity for public comment.

Issue 2—Remaining & New Deficiencies in the Council’s ability to Review and/or Enforce Diversion Requests:

  • No Post-Enforcement Monitoring: In the updated guidance and procedures, the Compact Council has failed to accept the role it must play in helping monitor and enforce an Applicant’s compliance with its diversion request after the request is approved.
  • Diversion Applicants not required to provide Monthly Usage Estimate: Without explanation, the updated guidance and procedures eliminated the requirement that diversion applicants provide a monthly estimate of how much water they propose to divert from the Great Lakes. By eliminating this requirement, the Compact Council has created a blind spot in its review process because the Council will be unable to measure or account for the negative ecological impact that could result from irregular and heavy return flows. This concern is precisely why the Environmental Protection Act requires applicants provide monthly usage rates in the context of permitting considerations.

Anishinabek First Nation Perspective

The Anishinabek Nation represents 40 First Nations throughout the province of Ontario from Golden Lake in the east, Sarnia in the south, Thunder Bay and Lake Nipigon in the north. The 40 First Nations have an approximate combined population of 65,000 citizens, approximately one third of the province of Ontario’s First Nation population.

Anishinabek people have a collective responsibility to take care of the waters as these were gifted to the Anishinabek by the Creator. This responsibility is taken seriously as water is fundamental to physical, cultural and spiritual well-being of the Anishinabek. The importance of this connection to water is recognized by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Article 25:

Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard.

The Anishinabek have inherent rights and Aboriginal and treaty rights which are reaffirmed in Section 35 of Canada’s Constitution 1982. These Aboriginal and treaty rights are constitutionally protected. The Crown has the duty to consult and accommodate in relation to any decisions that may impact land or waters and related Aboriginal and treaty protected rights. Many inherent and treaty protected rights rely on clean water and healthy lake beds that allow for the exercise of fishing, hunting and gathering rights and spiritual practices. Such consultation and accommodation is not only a legal requirement but also provides greater accountability for all jurisdictions.

The Chiefs of Ontario met on Anishinabek Territory in 2008 and produced the First Nations Water Declaration in

Ontario that reads in part:

…First Nations in Ontario made treaties with non-Indigenous people based on the continuation of all life and; First Nations in Ontario’s treaty relationship makes certain that our internationally protected right to give our free and fully informed consent on all issues related to use and care of waters is our right and was not given over with the making of Treaties;

First Nations in Ontario’s fundamental water rights is a relationship based on an expression of a power relationship between ourselves and the Creator and;

First Nations have rights to determine the key priorities of waters including distribution…

The Anishinabek Nation has repeatedly intervened in the process to develop the draft Compact Council procedures, and to register their disagreement and filed formal comments.

Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative Perspective

The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative (www.glslcities.org) is a coalition of over 100 US and Canadian mayors and municipal leaders working to protect and restore the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.

In August 2017, the Cities Initiative settled its challenge to the Waukesha Diversion Approval with an agreement to collaborate on improving the review of water diversion applications in the future. The agreement called for a rigorous review of the Compact Council and Regional Body’s process for considering diversions.

Our sole objective has always been to ensure the protection of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Basin. In order to reinforce the Compact, the Cities Initiative’s main goals for the procedure’s updates were

  • Improved public engagement process, including public hearings in Canada and the United States;
  • Development of the public record to support any decisions made by the Compact Council and Regional Body;
  • Consideration of new information that becomes available during the process and of changes in the application while under consideration;
  • Ability for the Compact Council to monitor and enforce approved diversion conditions; and
  • Adopt binding Rules, not only Guidance.

The Mayors of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative remain committed to working with the Compact Council and Regional Body to further improve the water diversion procedures.

For more information please contact:

Cameron Welch
Anishinabek Nation Lands and Resources Department
Phone: (705) 497-9127 ext. 2283
E-mail: cameron.welch@anishinabek.ca

John Dickert
Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative
Phone: (514) 618-0297
E-mail: john.dickert@glslcities.org

Scott McKay (bilingual)
Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative
Phone: (514) 618-0297
E-mail: scott.mckay@glslcities.org

Additional information available online:

Anishinabek Nation: http://www.anishinabek.ca
Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative: http://glslcities.org

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