Canada Takes Action to Improve Water Quality of Lake of the Woods and Rainy River Watershed

August 4, 2012 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, accompanied by Greg Rickford, Member of Parliament for Kenora, today announced Canada’s support for the establishment of a binational board with the United States under the auspices of the International Joint Commission (IJC) to oversee the effective governance of water quality in the Lake of the Woods and Rainy River watershed.

“Our government remains vigorously committed to protecting the health of the watershed of the Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River, a natural beauty and a source of pride to Canadians,” said Baird.

The new board structure will lay down the foundations of long-term ecological sustainability and economic vitality of the region.

“The Lake of the Woods is a key tourist attraction and a vital source of drinking water for three quarters of a million people who live in communities on or near the Lake,” said Mr. Rickford.

The binational board will also be mandated to develop the Water Quality Plan of Study to identify the scientific research necessary to address threats to water quality in the watershed, such as invasive aquatic species, nutrient enrichment and harmful algal blooms, which affect the health of the ecosystem.

“Ultimately, the goals for both sides of the border are the same: a sustainable fishery, a clean lake for recreation and restored ecological integrity to the Lake and watershed,” said Mr. Rickford.

The creation of the IJC-led binational board will foster increased local participation through direct involvement of the community, the First Nations, Tribes and Métis.

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A backgrounder follows.

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In 2010, following expressions of concern about water quality by the local population, the governments of Canada and the United States requested that the International Joint Commission (IJC) examine and make recommendations regarding the binational management of the international waters of the Lake of the Woods and Rainy River watershed and the IJC’s potential role in this management.

The IJC report reflects input from federal and provincial governments in Canada, the U.S. government and local stakeholders, including the Tribes, First Nations and Métis.

Direct representation of members from the Tribes, First Nations and Métis will allow the sharing of traditional knowledge and experience to gain a better understanding of the environmental system, in addition to improving preparedness plans for future changes.

Canada has long recognized the importance of an integrated approach to watershed management. In 2007, the Government of Canada committed $1.952 million over five years to support the IJC’s International Watersheds Initiative, along with $515,000 per year on an ongoing basis.

In May 2012, Minister Baird announced the Government of Canada’s support for safeguarding Canadian fresh water through Bill C‑383, which proposes stronger measures to prevent the bulk removal of water from Canada.