The Great Lakes form the largest group of freshwater lakes in the world, holding more than 20 per cent of the world’s surface freshwater and 95 per cent of North America’s. They provide life and livelihood to more than 40 million people and their waters and shorelines are enjoyed by millions of Canadians. Yet the Great Lakes of North America are in serious trouble and continue to be threatened by pollution, climate change, large water withdrawals, invasive species, and wetland loss.
It is clear we need a new vision for the Great Lakes. To support this vision, the Council of Canadians recently launched a campaign to protect the Great Lakes forever. The campaign kicked off in May with the first leg of the Council’s “Great Lakes Need Great Friends Tour,” which visited eight cities and inspired interest and creative actions along the way.
More than 1,675 people attended tour stops to hear Maude Barlow, National Chairperson for the Council of Canadians, and special guests speak about threats to the Great Lakes and ways we can work together to combat them. Barlow called for a new future for the lakes that involves recognizing the Lakes as a commons, a public trust and protected bioregion.
The Ontario government will soon be introducing a Great Lakes Protection Act to protect the lakes and improve people’s connection to the lakes. They are consulting with community groups, First Nation leaders, mayors and environmental experts so we need to demand real protection for our Great Lakes now!
Despite several important cross border agreements and the hard work of many environmental organizations, the Great Lakes are still in serious trouble. Multipoint pollution, climate change, over-extraction, invasive species, and wetland loss are all taking their toll on the watershed that provides life and livelihood to more than 40 million people and thousands of species that live around it.
We need to demand real action from the Ontario government. The Council of Canadians is calling for a new vision of the Great Lakes that recognizes that the Great Lakes are a ‘commons’ to be shared, protected and managed by those living around them. The Great Lakes Commons need to be protected by a legal and political framework based on public trust principles, underpinning in law that the Great Lakes are central to the very existence of those people, plants and animals living on or near them and therefore must be protected for the common good from generation to generation. The Great Lakes also need to be designated a protected bioregion, recognizing that while there are many political jurisdictions governing the Great Lakes Basin, it is, in fact, one integrated watershed and needs to be seen and governed as such.
Tell the McGuinty government you want real change in Great Lakes protection and support declaring the Great Lakes as “a commons, public trust and protected bioregion”!
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