Great Lakes ‘in terrible trouble,’ Barlow tells crowd

Andrew Philips

Council of Canadians chairperson says governments more interested in profit than protection

 

Great Lakes ‘in terrible trouble,’ Barlow tells crowd. Council of Canadians
chairperson Maude Barlow, centre, sits with Mary Muter of the Sierra Club of
Canada and Tiny Township Mayor Ray Miller during a panel discussion
Monday evening. Andrew Philips photo       TINY TOWNSHIP – The Great Lakes require urgent care and attention to ensure they remain healthy for future generations.

That was one of the primary messages delivered by Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow on Monday at a packed community centre near Perkinsfield.

Speaking to about 250 area residents, Barlow said low water levels and destruction of fish habitat caused by dredging, over-extraction, climate change, pollution and altering natural water flows continue to hurt the majestic bodies of water.
“By 2030, the demand for water will exceed the supply by 40 per cent worldwide,” said Barlow. “The Great Lakes are in terrible trouble; the world’s fresh water is in terrible crisis.”

The event at the Township of Tiny Community Centre was part of an eight-community speaking tour called “Great Lakes Need Great Friends: Protecting the Great Lakes Forever.”

Barlow wants to create a stewardship program that would not only unite people and communities committed to supporting the health of the lakes, but also a Great Lakes Basin Commons that would recognize the need for governments to work together for the lakes.

“A Great Lakes Basin Commons would recognize that water is a human right,” she said. “It would recognize the ecological rights of the watershed, that private interests are subordinate to community rights, that governments have an affirmative obligation to manage and protect the Great Lakes.”

She said ordinary citizens and communities across the region must come together to voice their concern before it’s too late.
“We’re taking more from the lakes every day than we and nature are putting back,” she said. “There are duelling visions of the Great Lakes. Some see it as a giant dollar sign, (but) we have a sacred responsibility to take care of these lakes.
“The Canadian government spends $50 million (annually) on Great Lakes cleanup; the U.S. federal government spends six times that.”

Mary Muter, of the Sierra Club of Canada, said Georgian Bay water levels have been hovering near record lows for the past 13 years.

“Lake Michigan, Lake Huron and Georgian Bay water levels should be restored by 25 centimetres gradually,” she said.
Both speakers said the federal and provincial governments seem more interested in making money off the Great Lakes than protecting them.

“Things are only going to get worse, folks,” said Muter, who noted recent changes to the federal Fisheries Act are “taking us back” to the 1880s.

“It’s a colossal failure,” she said. “The Lake Huron fishery is in big trouble.”

Vicki Monague, who was part of the group that opposed the controversial Site 41 landfill proposal, said real science can often act in concert with people’s passion for ensuring a healthy future.

“At Site 41, we saw that spirit and science went hand in hand,” said Monague, a member of the Beausoleil First Nation. “We need to continue that for water. When we’re thinking about the Great Lakes, we must think about the spirit of everything.

“There are water battles all over Tiny Township, Midland, Penetanguishene, central Ontario … all over the world right now. We take for granted so much, but there is a water footprint in everything we do.”

Tiny Township Mayor Ray Miller agreed: “We need to be ever vigilant. We can do something about the challenges we face with the Great Lakes.”

 
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