March 21st to 25th, is Canada Water Week! To mark the occasion, Environmental Defence will be posting blogs this week to showcase the importance of water in all of our programs (and our lives!). Today, on World Water Day, our water program shares details about today’s first gathering of the Great Lakes Guardian Council.

 

Today is a big day for water. Not only is it World Water Day, a day to reflect on the importance of water, but the first ever meeting of the Great Lakes Guardian Council is also taking place.

The council was created under Ontario’s Great Lakes Protection Act as a forum that brings together diverse voices – to discuss how to protect and restore the Great Lakes.

Environmental Defence has been invited to attend this inaugural meeting. We are honoured to attend and to join leaders from First Nations and Métis communities, agriculture, municipalities, conservation authorities, industry, the environment, and academia to advise on actions to address the issues impacting the water bodies millions of Ontarians rely on.

In Ontario, we’re lucky to have an abundance of freshwater. The Great Lakes are the largest surface freshwater system on Earth and play an important part in our lives and communities.  They provide us with water to quench our thirst, grow our food, power our homes, and play. With these benefits comes a responsibility to protect the valuable ecosystems housing numerous birds, fish, plants and other wildlife.

That’s why we enthusiastically welcomed the passage of The Great Lakes Protection Act this past fall.  The Act recognizes the diverse issues facing the Great Lakes, from climate change, to invasive species, to nutrient pollution, and provides tools to set targets and take action.

World Water Day is a day for the world to come together to celebrate water and commit to working together for its protection. On this day, the Great Lakes Guardian Council can do something very similar within Ontario. The council has the powerful opportunity to break down barriers – across sectors, ministries, and communities – so that the dream of “swimmable, drinkable, and fishable” Great Lakes can become a reality.

And it is by working together, that we can create the solutions to tackle the threats to our region’s water. To make this happen, the Guardian Council must fulfill its mandate to enable collaboration and partnership between all members of the Great Lakes community.

At Environmental Defence, our hope is that today’s council meeting sets the stage for a Great Lakes protection strategy that is truly collaborative and participatory. We hope that the groundwork is laid for establishing priorities, developing action plans, setting clear timelines, and ensuring adequate budgets to begin the work needed.

We all have a stake in these shared waters and each of us plays an important role in ensuring their health. So today, take some time to reflect on what the Great Lakes mean to you and what you will do this year to honour and safeguard our freshwater.

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