December 12, 2005

Canada responds to IJC 12th Biennial Great Lakes report

A year after the International Joint Commission (IJC) released its 12th Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality, the federal government has issued its official response to the report's recommendations. The biennial report, released in September 2004, made eight recommendations on four specific topics: physical integrity; biological integrity; chemical integrity; and ecosystem integrity.

The Canadian response was drafted with the participation of several federal departments, as well as Ontario ministries. Among other things, it notes that the 2005 federal budget allocated $40 million to improve the ecological integrity of the Great Lakes ecosystem. This amount will allow the continued environmental restoration of key aquatic areas of concern identified under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA).

The budget also committed $85 million over five years for the implementation of a national Invasive Alien Species Strategy for both terrestrial and aquatic invasive species. This includes $2 million per year over the next five years for the sea lamprey control program to control the presence of sea lampreys in the Great Lakes.

The response further notes that mercury reduction programs have had considerable success in reducing all forms of mercury.

The Canada-Ontario Agreement Respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem (COA), first signed in 1971 and most recently renewed in June 2002, has become the main vehicle through which federal and provincial activities to carry out the GLWQA are co-ordinated. Great Lakes water quality issues are also addressed through Canada's Project Green, a set of policies and programs aimed at supporting a sustainable environment, healthy population and competitive economy. The response reaffirms Canada's pledge to continue working with the provinces and its U.S. partners to further improve the conditions in the Great Lakes.

The terms of the GLWQA also require the Canadian and U.S. governments to undertake a comprehensive review of the operation and effectiveness of the Agreement following every third IJC biennial report. This requirement was formally triggered with the release of the IJC's 12th Biennial Report.

The IJC has been convening public meetings in seven Canadian and seven U.S. communities throughout the fall to gather input on the review of the GLWQA. The IJC's report on its findings from these public sessions will be used by Canada and the U.S. in their comprehensive review of the Agreement, which will begin by March 2006.

More information is available on the IJC Web site, www.ijc.org.

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