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GLIN==> Canada passes legislation to protect Great Lakes from bulk water removals
- Subject: GLIN==> Canada passes legislation to protect Great Lakes from bulk water removals
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- Date: Thu, 20 Dec 2001 16:31:46 -0500
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December 20, 2001
CANADA PASSES LEGISLATION TO PROTECT GREAT LAKES
FROM BULK WATER REMOVALS
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John Manley, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today announced that amendments to
the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act (IBWTA) have been passed into
law. The amendments will prohibit the bulk removal of water from Canadian
boundary waters, including the Great Lakes.
"In February 1999 we announced that we would prohibit bulk water removal
from boundary waters under federal law and now we have achieved that goal,"
said Minister Manley. "This will ensure that this critical freshwater
resource is protected for future generations."
The prohibition on removals will apply principally to the Great Lakes and
other boundary waters, such as the international sections of the St.
Lawrence River and Lake of the Woods in Ontario and the St. Croix and Upper
St. John rivers in New Brunswick. Separate from the prohibition, the
amendments adopted yesterday will also set in place a licensing regime for
boundary waters projects such as dams, obstructions or other works.
Environment Minister David Anderson said, "Prohibiting the bulk removal of
this vital natural resource protects the ecosystems and communities that
depend upon a sustainable supply of water."
The passage of the amendments to the IBWTA is the last step in a three-part
strategy to prohibit bulk water removals from all Canadian water basins,
announced in February 1999. Last year, the International Joint Commission
(IJC), at the request of Canada and the United States, completed a study and
released a report that concluded that the ecological integrity of the Great
Lakes needs protection. The IBWTA amendments are consistent with the IJC's
conclusions and recommendations. In addition, the Minister of the
Environment has been working with the provinces and territories to ensure
that all of Canada's freshwater resources are protected. All provinces have
already put in place or are developing legislation or regulations that
accomplish this goal.
Canada's border with the United States is formed, crossed or straddled by
more than 300 lakes and rivers. The International Boundary Waters Treaty Act
was passed by Parliament in 1911. It implements the 1909 Canada-U.S.
Boundary Waters Treaty, which establishes principles and procedures for
preventing or settling disputes, particularly regarding the quantity and
quality of boundary waters between Canada and the United States.
To further implement this legislation, regulations will be proposed in the
coming months that will provide an opportunity for public input and ensure
effective and continued implementation.
- 30 -
A backgrounder is attached.
For further information, media representatives may contact:
Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs
Media Relations Office
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Office of the Minister of the Environment
This document is also available on the Department of Foreign Affairs and
International Trade's Internet site: http://www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca
AMENDMENTS TO THE INTERNATIONAL BOUNDARY WATERS TREATY ACT
Canadians are looking to all levels of government to take action to assure
the long-term security and integrity of Canada's freshwater resources. As we
pass into the 21st century, federal, provincial and territorial governments
need to cooperate to ensure a coherent and effective policy that preserves
these resources. The amendments to the International Boundary Waters Treaty
Act (IBWTA) reaffirm Canada's commitment to act within its jurisdiction to
prohibit bulk water removal.
What do the amendments do?
The main element of the amendments to the IBWTA is to prohibit bulk removal
of boundary waters (i.e. those shared between Canada and the U.S.) out of
their water basins. With these amendments, the Great Lakes and other
boundary waters will now have protection from bulk removals under federal
law. This is significant because the Great Lakes are of sufficient size to
attract developers of bulk removal -- including for the purposes of export
-- or diversion schemes. The federal government is taking action within its
jurisdiction to ensure that these incomparable freshwater resources, which
belong to all Canadians, are protected from exploitation and environmental
damage caused by the bulk removal of water.
Under the 1909 Canada-U.S. Boundary Waters Treaty and the IBWTA, the federal
government has jurisdiction over boundary waters, such as the Great Lakes,
in order to fulfill Canada's obligation under the Treaty not to affect
unilaterally the level and flow of waters on the U.S. side of the boundary.
The amendments will give the Minister of Foreign Affairs the authority to:
* impose a prohibition on removals of boundary waters out of their water
basins. Exceptions will be considered, such as ballast water, short-term
humanitarian purposes and water used in the production of food or beverages
(e.g. bottled water); and
* introduce a licensing system, separate from the prohibition, formalizing a
90-year-old process under which the federal government and the International
Joint Commission (IJC) have examined and approved certain projects, such as
dams and obstructions, under the provisions of the Treaty. The licensing
system would not cover ordinary municipal, industrial or agricultural uses.
What about protecting all of Canada's water resources?
In February 1999, Canada announced a three-part strategy to prohibit the
bulk removal of water out of all major Canadian water basins. Over the past
two years there has been significant progress:
* Canada promised to take action within its jurisdiction by introducing the
amendments to the IBWTA. This was done in November 1999. The amendments have
now been passed into law.
* The Minister of the Environment, in cooperation with the provinces and
territories, proposed to develop a Canada-wide accord to prohibit bulk water
removals. This would apply to all waters. Each level of government would
take appropriate action within its jurisdiction. All provinces have put into
place or are developing legislation or regulations that accomplish this
* Canada and the U.S. agreed to a joint reference to the IJC on consumptive
uses, diversions and removals of Great Lakes waters, including for the
purposes of export. The IJC's final report (Protection of the Waters of the
Great Lakes, February 2000) concluded that the Great Lakes require
protection, especially in the light of the uncertainties, pressures and
cumulative impacts from removals, consumption, population and economic
growth, and climate change. Recommendations for action to protect the
ecological integrity of the Great Lakes Basin are directed by the IJC to all
levels of government in Canada and the U.S. The IBWTA amendments are
consistent with and supportive of the IJC's conclusions and recommendations.
Prohibition of bulk water removal out of water basins vs. an export ban:
which is the better approach?
There is a consensus among Canadians that freshwater resources need
protection from bulk removals. What is the best way of achieving this goal?
Prohibiting bulk water removal out of water basins is better than an export
ban because it is more comprehensive, environmentally sound, respects
constitutional responsibilities and is consistent with Canada's
international trade obligations.
* Water is protected in its water basin, before the issue of exporting
arises. This is an environmental protection measure of general application,
aimed at preserving the integrity of ecosystems.
* Under the Canada-wide accord, each level of government has a
responsibility and each level must take action. Canadian governments have
full sovereignty over the management of water in its natural state, and in
exercising this sovereignty are not constrained by trade agreements.
* Water is regulated in its natural state, before it has become a commercial
good or a saleable commodity. This is consistent with Canada's international
An export ban may seem like a quick and simple solution. However, it does
not focus on the environmental dimension, has possible constitutional
limitations, and may be vulnerable to a trade challenge. An export ban would
focus on water once it has become a good and therefore subject to
international trade agreements. Because these agreements limit the ability
of governments to control the export of goods, a ban on exports is likely to
be contrary to Canada's international trade obligations. This contrasts
sharply with the federal government's approach.
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