Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow and Michigan-based Flow for Water chair Jim Olson presented to the International Joint Commission in Washington, DC on Tuesday December 13. In her presentation, Barlow stated, “With so many wonderful people, elected officials and environmental groups working hard to save and protect the Great Lakes, what is the problem? In our opinion, there are competing visions of what the Lakes are for and who they serve, and one vision – the wrong one - is winning. Some see the Great Lakes as a watershed that gives us all life and livelihood and is a living ecosystem to be nurtured, protected and preserved for future generations. But too many others, including some governments, see the waters of the Great Lakes as a huge resource for our convenience, pleasure and profit.”   She highlighted, “So we asked ourselves, could we replace the predominant view of the Lakes with another one? What would happen if the citizens living around the Great Lakes decided to collectively protect them based on the very principles and practices that informed the First Peoples of the region, namely that the Lakes must be shared equitably and responsibly by all who live around them and protected for seven generations to come? Our answer: a new narrative for the Great Lakes to replace the current narrative that they serve predominantly as an industrial engine for growth and prosperity, a narrative we hope elected officials, the IJC, and ordinary people will embrace. This new narrative would declare the Great Lakes to be a Lived Commons to be shared, carefully managed, enjoyed by all, and protected by the Doctrine of Public Trust, and would recognize that nature, other creatures and the waters of the Great Lakes have the right to exist and flourish too. Therefore, we would also designate the Great Lakes as a Protected Bioregion, understanding that while there are many political jurisdictions managing the Basin, it is in fact, one integrated watershed and must be governed as such.” In Olson’s presentation, he noted, “Under public trust principles, the IJC can comprehensively unify its authority and role under the Boundary Waters Treaty as the watch dog of the integrity of the boundary waters from private control and physical, biological and chemical threats, particularly the Great Lakes and ecosystem. What better way to respond to a call for vision, a new standard, under the BWT than for the IJC to incorporate the public trust or trust in these navigable waters in every decision, reference, recommendation under the BW Treaty, and in the implementation of the GLWQA in the next 50 years. The IJC is in a remarkable position to lead the countries, provinces, states, businesses, and citizens through the adoption of overarching public trust principles to protect our uncommon shared commons in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, or other boundary waters and communities along our countries’ two borders that face the same challenges and threats as we move into this century. What better way to build quality of life, economic stability or prosperity, and global security.” To read Barlow’s remarks to the IJC, please click here. To see Olson’s comments, click here.
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