Imagine kicking off the summer beach season by exercising your new-found "freedom to roam". It could happen. Earlier this month, the Ontario legislature referred a private member's bill to the Justice Policy committee. If passed, the bill will restore your right to walk freely on the shoreline of the Great Lakes in this province (that'd be every shoreline of every Great Lake, except Michigan).
Bill 32 the Great Lakes Shoreline Right of Passage Act is a short, ten-point law that reserves a right of passage along the shoreline of the Great Lakes between the shoreline and high water mark. For details on the committee process, go here.
This poetic sounding "right of passage" grants you the "freedom to roam" the length of the Great Lakes in the stretch of sand (or rock or pebble) from the water's edge to the high water mark. It dates back to the days of the Roman Emperor Justinian (6th Century) and Magna Carta (14th Century). The ancient tradition that underscores the bill inspired a fascinating debate in the Ontario Legislature. Members of Parliament talked at length about the Great Lakes, the importance of public access to waterways, and their own experiences fishing and swimming in our lakes.
The Great Lakes Shoreline Right of Passage Act would resolve a long-standing battle over Ontario's waterfronts. Citizen groups and private property owners have been fighting local battles for years on Lake Erie, Georgian Bay, and Lake Ontario. Generally, homeowners built fences or other barriers long the shoreline that prevented the general public from accessing beaches. In one community, these barriers spawned acts of vandalism and violence. In another town, the local council purchased land in order to open up the shoreline to the public.
The Act, if passed, would also help reconnect Ontarians with their Great Lakes. Connecting is the first step towards a renewed cultural engagement with these magnificent waterways ... and an important step towards achieving the Swim Drink Fish dream: to live in communities where every person can safely touch the water, where the water is pure enough for drinking, and where it is clean and wild enough to toss in a line and pull out a fish for your family.
We like to imagine that the Act will whizz through Committee and Third Reading in time for the summer, but the MP who brought the bill forward (Mr. Kim Craitor) suggests it will not be passed before the fall election.
You can help support Lake Ontario Waterkeeper. Text DRINK to 45678 to make a $10 donation to Lake Ontario. Thank you!