ONTARIO – Ontario representatives met with the Great Lakes Guardians Council last week to identify priorities for action to help protect the water quality and ecosystems of the Great Lakes and other waterways, recently.
Rod Phillips, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks and Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Glen Hare co-chaired the Great Lakes Guardian Council, which includes leaders from across Ontario including municipalities, First Nations and Metis communities, environmental organizations, and the science community, to discuss challenges and opportunities around the Great Lakes. The Council meeting updated participants on issues such as excess road salt, plastic pollution, harmful algae, and sewer overflows in waterways. They also discussed the government’s efforts to update Ontario’s Great Lakes Strategy and negotiation of a new Canada-Ontario Great Lakes Agreement with the federal government.
“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. Ms. Mandamin’s total kilometers walked for the water has been tallied at over 25,000. In the role of Chief Commissioner of the Anishinabek Nation Women’s Water Commission, Ms. Mandamin was a predominant contributor and respected leader of 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 Chef 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.”