American government promises $5 billion over 5 years for Great Lakes restoration while our Canadian government rubber-stamps nuclear shipment.
I grew up in Canada believing that despite our small population, our country was a major player in the world. We punched above our weight when it came to human rights, education and environmental protection. I carried this pride with me when I worked outside Canada. As a Director of Waterkeeper Alliance, I've traveled widely across North America working with Waterkeeper organizations. During these trips I'd always play up Canada's scrappy underdog image. I'd say America is strong, but Canada is great. Sadly, as I head to New York this week for my 10th Annual Board gathering, I fear our brand has been lost.
The Canadian-US border cuts through the Great Lakes, making governance of the lakes necessarily international. The world’s largest system of fresh water in the world, over 40 million people rely on the Great Lakes for drinking water, recreation, and fishing. The basin faces a wide variety of threats, from agricultural run-off and development to landfills and nuclear power plants, that have destroyed shoreline habitat, introduced non-native species, contaminated sediments, and threatened to destroy over fifty threatened or endangered species.
While the Americans work to reverse the damage and raise environmental standards on the Great Lakes, the Canadian government is rolling back and watering down our laws.
An example of our government’s neglect for the environment is their lobbying efforts to derail the American’s efforts to improve shipping regulations. The perfect case study is Canada’s recent decision to allow private nuclear companies to ship radioactive waste on the Great Lakes. The decision puts our drinking water at risk of exposure to radioactive waste that exceeds international standards for ocean cargo by six times, and exceeds the fresh water standard by fifty times. Despite pleas from US cities, politicians, and non-profit groups, the Canadian government issued that precedent-setting license to Bruce Power last week. The license was granted without US partnership or agreement, and without involving the affected communities on both sides of the border.
In my twenty year environmental career, there has never been a better opportunity to work with American politicians and communities to dramatically improve our protection of the Great Lakes and restore much of what we have lost. Not only is Canada ignoring this opportunity, but openly trying to thwart it. Canadians need to tell their governments and industries, now is the time for action - not excuses. Now is the time to be great again.