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Working together: Three freshwater commitments for Canada’s next government

Update: We reached out via email to Canada’s four main federal parties, asking them if they agree to these three commitments. (Note, we did not share the additional context provided here but we did share the links.)

  • The Conservative Party of Canada did not send us a response.
  • The Green Party of Canada sent us this response.
  • The Liberal Party of Canada sent us this response.
  • The New Democratic Party of Canada sent us this response.

Water connects us all. It is essential to life on our shared planet. It flows across our shared landscape – and its health is our shared responsibility.

Canada’s election takes place on Oct. 21. The Lake Winnipeg Foundation (LWF) and the Lake Winnipeg Indigenous Collective (LWIC) are reminding federal leaders that restoring and protecting the health of Lake Winnipeg and other water bodies will require us all to work together.

Together, LWF and LWIC are asking the next federal government to agree to – and follow through on – the following three commitments:

Bring everyone to the table – Include Indigenous governments as signatories to the Memorandum of Understanding Respecting Lake Winnipeg and the Lake Winnipeg Basin

In 2010, the governments of Manitoba and Canada signed the Canada-Manitoba Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Respecting Lake Winnipeg and the Lake Winnipeg Basin. This MOU formalized the commitment of both governments to a long-term, collaborative and coordinated approach to understanding and protecting the water quality and ecological health of Lake Winnipeg and its basin.

A steering committee was established at the time the MOU was signed to oversee implementation of the agreement. Originally intended to last five years, the MOU has been extended to September 13, 2020. It is expected to be extended again at that time.

Want to learn more? Click here to read the full text of the MOU.

Strategically engage with and support community-based water monitoring efforts – implement the recommendations listed in “Elevating Community-Based Water Monitoring in Canada”

Last year, The Gordon Foundation, Living Lakes Canada and WWF-Canada convened a collaborative dialogue with more than 50 leading Indigenous and non-Indigenous community-based water monitoring practitioners, water scientists, and policy and data experts. The goal was to identify actionable steps the federal government can take to show leadership and support in advancing community-based monitoring of freshwater ecosystems in Canada.

The final report was published in April 2019 and contains a series of recommendations, grouped into five focus areas: 1) capacity building; 2) effective monitoring; 3) data management; 4) regional and national collaboration, and; 5) data to inform decision-making. Companion documents include a roundtable discussion paper and a series of featured case studies, including one on the Lake Winnipeg Community-Based Monitoring Network.

Want to learn more? Click here to access the full report and related documents.

Respect and use Indigenous knowledge in decision-making – ensure that the commitments made in federal legislation are meaningfully implemented in practice.            

Indigenous peoples have a deep connection with lakes and rivers, and have passed down intricate and detailed Indigenous knowledge that is essential to good decision making about fresh water. In 2019, Bills C-68 and C-69 were passed making critical amendments to a several acts, including the Fisheries Act, the Navigation Protection Act (which replaced the Navigable Water Acts) and the Impact Assessment Act (which replaced the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act). These amendments are a positive step to honouring the vital role of Indigenous knowledge in protecting fresh water across Canada. “Indigenous knowledge” is now mentioned a total of 51 times within these three acts, but more work is needed to clarify the role and mechanisms for using Indigenous knowledge.

The next federal government must now create sensible regulation and policies to follow through on the commitments made in those acts.

Want to learn more? Click here to read a report card on the Impact Assessment Act. The evaluation process used here offers a helpful framework for assessing future work. Click here to read Bill C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence. Click here to read Bill C-69, An Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

We encourage all lake-lovers to engage with your federal candidates about Lake Winnipeg. (Not sure who’s running in your area? More information is available on Election Canada’s website.)

LWF and LWIC look forward to collaborating with Canada’s next government to improve the health of our shared waters.

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