Today, I am sharing something I have never shared outside our office before. Why? Because events are unfolding this week that will affect millions of Canadians for years to come. And I thought you’d want to know.
Every Monday, I write an email to our staff highlighting the priorities for the week. This morning, the priorities list took my breath away. It’s way longer than it should be. It's a preposterous workload. But we will be part of moments that will determine the future of Canadian waterways. (And of course we’ll be championing swimmable, drinkable, fishable water for everyone.)
Here’s what I wrote:
This is the busiest week Lake Ontario Waterkeeper has ever had in terms of its presence and influence on environmental decision-making in Canada. It will be a tough week because of so many conflicting due dates, but the impact on swimmable, drinkable, fishable water will be significant.
On Tuesday, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper will be submitting a comment to the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario regarding the province's Environmental Bill of Rights. This powerful piece of legislation has been the cornerstone of our provincial work for over a decade. We are arguably the most experienced grassroots organization using this tool to protect water. This is an opportunity to flag concerns we have about transparency, as well as accountability for institutions that delay implementing decisions made under the EBR.
On Wednesday, Waterkeeper will be submitting a comment to the Government of Canada on changes made to the Navigable Waters Protection Act / Navigation Protection Act. The changes made to the law in 2012 represent a wholesale gutting of the legislation, so we won't spend time recommending minor tweaks. People lost their right to access Canadian waters in 2012. Freedom of access and movement must be restored.
Also on Wednesday, Waterkeeper will be participating in an evening workshop hosted by the federal government reviewing federal environmental assessment laws. This event is open to the public if you would like to attend. It is an interactive workshop where you can participate or simply observe. Krystyn will be formally representing the organization. We have until December to submit a detailed written comment.
And still also on Wednesday, Pippa Feinstein and Wilf Ruland will be representing Waterkeeper at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission hearing in Port Hope, Ontario. They will be making their oral presentation in favour of better monitoring and water management at the Cameco nuclear fuel facility on the shore of Lake Ontario. The plant wants to continue operating there, despite significant concerns about water contamination. Our job is to make sure Port Hope residents have access to swimmable, drinkable, fishable water and the facility complies with all federal and provincial environmental laws. Staff are welcome to join or watch the livestream.
On Thursday, Pippa and Wilf are back in Port Hope. This time, they will be making their oral presentation to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in favour of stronger protections for water at the low-level radioactive waste storage facility being created in the town. The storage site will house most of Canada's low-level radioactive waste. Currently, that waste is scattered around town in storage mounds, buried in leaking landfills, or mixed in with residential and institutional buildings. We are obviously in favour of the cleanup, which has a $1.2-billion price tag. But we must ensure the long-term storage site is built properly and the waste is fully contained. Port Hope has suffered under the stigma of radioactive pollution for too long. Staff are welcome to join or watch the livestream.
Our social media team will be promoting Thursday's deadline for the public to submit their comments on microplastics in the Great Lakes. Comments are being solicited by the International Joint Commission. Waterkeeper's comments are complete and have been submitted. This comes on the heels of Canada's announcement that microbeads (one type of microplastic) will be banned by July 2018).
On Friday, we will be preparing for another presentation to the federal government. This time, the topic is the Fisheries Act, and what can be done to restore Canada's most important water law. We’re appearing before a parliamentary committee on Monday and we need to make a compelling case for restoring protections for fish habitat. When the Fisheries Act was weakened in 2012, federal protections for water basically disappeared. Both law and funding need to be restored, if our waters have any hope of survival.
Those are just the public events. Behind the scenes: Mark meets with the International Joint Commission’s Great Lakes Water Quality Board in Thunder Bay Tuesday - Thursday of this week. Gabi is putting the finishing touches on our forthcoming Canada Beach Report (the first ever report on recreational water protection practices in Canada). Matt Flowers is diving into the first draft of our Toronto Harbour monitoring report, due out later this month.
Whew! It’s a big week. For us, and for water. Want to share the journey? Follow us for daily updates. Email us with suggestions or words of encouragement. Wear your shirt or hat in solidarity.
When people are swimming in Canadian rivers or eating fresh caught local fish decades from now, it will be because of events that unfolded this week. You're part of it, so I thought you should know.
Canadian rollbacks, Radioactive Waste, Toronto Sewage Bypasses Navigable Waters Protection Act, Environmental Bill of Rights, Navigation Protection Act, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CNSC, Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Fisheries Act, Great Lakes Water Quality Board, IJC