Ontario and Great Lakes Guardians’ Council meet to discuss Great Lakes, water protection

CENTRAL MANITOULIN – Central Manitoulin council entertained a recommendation by the Water, Waste and Education Committee to pass a motion recommending the province restore funding to Ontario Library Service North and provide sustainable long-term funding for Ontario’s public libraries and that the motion be forwarded to the premier, the minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Municipal Affairs, Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Mike Mantha, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and the Federation of Ontario Public Libraries.

The motion follows on the heels of the recent budget announcements made by the Ford government cutting the funding for the Ontario Library Service-North therebyONTARIO—Recently, Rod Phillips, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks and Grand Council Chief Glen Hare co-chaired the Great Lakes Guardian Council, which includes leaders from across Ontario including municipalities, First Nations and Métis communities, environmental organizations, and the science community, to discuss challenges and opportunities around the Great Lakes. 

The council meeting updated participants on issues such as excess road salt, plastic pollution, harmful algae and sewer overflows in waterways. They also discussed the government’s efforts to update Ontario’s Great Lakes Strategy and negotiation of a new Canada-Ontario Great Lakes Agreement with the federal government.

“This was my first meeting with the Great Lakes Guardians’ Council and the exchange of ideas from partners around the table and dialogue about how to tackle the pressures on our water resources and protect our Great Lakes was extremely valuable,” said Minister Phillips. “We will take what we learned from today’s Council meeting along with future consultations to inform the actions we will take together to protect our Great Lakes and keep our water clean.”

The meeting also honoured the legacy of the late Josephine Mandamin, an Anishinaabe grandmother, elder, water protector and activist. In 2003, she co-founded Mother Earth Water Walk, circumnavigating the shores of all five Great Lakes to raise awareness about the condition of these waterways. Josephine’s total kilometres walked for the water has been tallied at over 25,000 kilometres. In the role of Chief Commissioner of the Anishinabek Nation Women’s Water Commission, Ms. Mandamin was a predominant contributor and respected leader at the Great Lakes Guardians’ Council.

“Through all of the years of Josephine’s determination and dedication to raise awareness through her legendary Great Lakes Water Walks, it is my hope that the world hears her message—that water is life,” stated Grand Council Chief Hare. “Our world is a better place because of Josephine’s efforts and those of us who will continue her work to protect our life-giving nibi, not only to honour her legacy, but to ensure water, the world over, is protected. What a remarkable Anishinaabe-kwe we have had the absolute pleasure of knowing and learning from.”

Convening the Great Lakes Guardians’ Council is part of the government’s Environment Plan to protect our air, land and water, prevent and reduce litter and waste, support Ontarians to continue to do their share to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and help communities and families increase their resilience to climate change, a press release from the ministry states.

As part of the Environment Plan, Ontario will release a water discussion paper in the coming weeks to engage the public in a dialogue about key actions we can take to better protect our water resources. forcing the closure of the interlibrary loan program.

“I was a little bit concerned we didn’t have all of the information when this came up at committee,” said Mayor Richard Stephens. “I think we all have had time to review and discuss that now.”

“I really think the removal of funding for the interlibrary loan program really impacts small libraries like our own,” said Councillor Steve Shaffer. “I think it is short sighted to eliminate that program; not every library has every book.”

“I would like to be optimistic,” said Councillor Dale Scott, “but when these governments decide something they have decided it a long time before they contact anybody. They made this choice, I don’t know that anyone will be able to move them off of this decision.”

Council passed the motion unanimously.