Ontario First Nations Seek Seats at
Great Lakes Water Table
Environmental News Service
Published July 18, 2005
TORONTO, Ontario, Canada, July 18, 2005 (ENS) - Discussions
shaping the future of the Great Lakes watershed must include
Ontario First Nations, the indigenous leaders are demanding.
Leaders representing 50 First Nations sent a letter Thursday
to Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay objecting to
their exclusion from the Great Lakes Charter Annex.
Last month, Ontario, Quebec and seven of the eight Great
Lakes states reached an agreement to limit the majority
of water diversions from the lakes.
A side deal called the Charter Annex gives the Great
Lakes state governors the power to veto proposed U.S.
water diversions, but not Ontario or Quebec. The deal
requires only that the two provinces be consulted about
The various jurisdictions are in the midst of a 60 day
public comment period reviewing the Annex Implementation
Agreement that will govern the application of the Great
Lakes Charter, Annex 2001.
“There is a need for the MNR [Ministry of Natural Resources]
as representatives of the Crown to consult First Nations
people and provide resources so we might jointly develop
a consultation process,” said Grand Council Chief of the
Union of Ontario Indians John Beaucage.
Grand Chief Denise Stonefish of the Association of Iroquois
and Allied Indians said the native groups “expect the
Crown to fulfill their obligation and duty to consult.”
“Last year, the Supreme Court defined a constitutional
order, in which the Crown is require to negotiate with
First Nations in a way that recognizes and accommodates
First Nations rights,” Stonefish said.
First Nations leaders gathered Thursday on the front steps
Toronto's Metro Hall Council Chambers in defiance of a
public consultation forum that was taking place inside.
Two weeks ago, the Union of Ontario Indians served notice
that they will assert title and jurisdiction over the
Great Lakes basin.
In a June 29 resolution, First Nations Chiefs authorized
their leadership to take "whatever political or legal
action is required to protect rights and jurisdiction
over the waters of the Great Lakes Basin."
That particular resolution was affirmed by the Assembly
of First Nations at their annual General Assembly July
7 in Yellowknife. The Assembly of First Nations is the
national organization representing First Nations citizens
“This is much more than a jurisdictional dispute,” Beaucage
said. “Anishinabek tradition gives our women responsibility
as caretakers of the water, and they are telling us it
is time to act to prevent furthering poisoning of our
rivers and lakes that has been permitted by federal, provincial
and state governments.”
The province of Ontario and the U.S. states bordering
the Great Lakes have been negotiating an Implementation
Agreement with respect to the Great Lakes Charter Annex
2001, a regime to determine such issues as the diversion
of Great Lakes water.
The governors and premiers of Great Lakes states and
provinces released the latest draft of the Annex Implementation
Agreement June 30 for a 60 day public review period that
will conclude August 28, 2005.
At the end of the 60 day public comment and review period,
the governors' and premiers' staffs will review the comments
and attempt to reach consensus on the agreements. If such
consensus is reached, the finalized agreements will be
submitted to the governors and premiers for their review
and consideration later this year.
The final documents, if approved by all governors and
premiers, will then provide a framework for each state
and province to pass laws that will protect the Great
In the U.S., Congress will be asked to consent to any
compact among the states.
No federal legislation is required in Canada.
In the United States, to meet the Annex commitment to
develop "a broad based public participation program,"
an Advisory Committee was created with over 20 representatives
from environmental, agricultural, municipal, shipping
and industrial concerns.
In addition to the Advisory Committee, the Working Group
has also sought input from a Resource Group and observers
that include representatives from federal agencies, the
International Joint Commission, the Great Lakes Commission
and other governmental and related organizations.
Last summer, more than 30 public hearings were held in
the Great Lakes basin and more than 10,000 public comments
were received concerning the first draft of the Agreements.
Still the First Nations say they have been left out of
The two organizations - the Union of Ontario Indians
and the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians - represent
the majority of First Nations in the Great Lakes basin.
The two tribal organizations want to participate in developing
the consultation process, including funding, and resources
to support that process.
The draft proposal consists of two elements:
The Great Lakes Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement,
a good-faith agreement among the 10 Great Lakes states
The Great Lakes Basin Water Resources Compact, the decision
making standard to be used in evaluating future new or
increased water uses is included in both the Agreement
and the Compact.
Some of the key changes in these revised draft agreements
A ban on diversions of water out of the basin with limited
Each of the eight Great Lakes states and the provinces
of Ontario and Québec would implement common decision
making standards governing new or increased water use
More of the decision making process for in-basin water
uses will take place at the state and provincial level
rather than at the regional level.
A procedure for regional review of the implementation
of the agreements and resolution of disputes by the states
Strengthened commitments to reduce demand for water and
improve efficient use of water through requiring conservation
of current and future water users.
Ontario has passed strict laws banning water diversions.
The province has also introduced tough rules for water
taking and stronger conservation measures. These laws
will not change.
Ontario is now seeking a stronger environmental standard
for regulating water uses across the basin that will significantly
increase the control of water uses in the Great Lakes
states. There is currently no such standard.
“The revised Charter Annex agreements are fundamentally
changed from the drafts released last year,” said Ramsay,
Ontario's Minister of Natural Resources. “The new agreements
ban diversions out of the Great Lakes Basin with limited
exceptions governed by strict controls for communities
and counties on the edge of the basin. We have set clear
limits beyond which water cannot be taken.”
All levels of government have a shared interest and responsibility
to protect and conserve the waters of the Great Lakes
Basin, Ramsay said - "bi-national, federal, state/provincial
and municipal." First Nations were not listed as
governments included in the process.
The Ontario government is providing further opportunities
for Ontarians of all ethnicities to comment on the draft
Great Lakes Charter Annex agreements by holding three
additional public information meetings, Natural Resources
Minister David Ramsay announced today.
"Ontarians said they wanted greater protection for
the Great Lakes and that's what the Ontario government
negotiated," said Ramsay. "The additional meetings
will provide even more opportunity for public input on
these strengthened agreements."
Niagara Falls - July 28 at 7:00 p.m. at the Renaissance
Sarnia - August 10 at 7:00 p.m. at the Best Western Guildwood
Windsor - August 10 at 7:00 p.m. at the Cleary International
Access the two elements of the draft proposal at: http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/mnr/water/greatlakes/