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This letter was sent to the Prime Minister of Canada (the Rt. Honourable Stephen Harper), the Minister of Foreign Affairs (the Honourable John Baird) and the Minister of the Environment (The Honourable Peter Kent)
Dear Prime Minister Harper,
The purpose of this letter is to express our concern for the lack of appointments of commissioners to the Canadian Section of the International Joint Commission (IJC).
The Forum for Leadership on Water (FLOW) is an independent group of water experts from across Canada that encourages government action to protect and steward our critical freshwater resources. We are committed to proposing policy solutions, urging action and tracking progress towards a more sustainable water future.
In fulfilling FLOW's mandate, we have issued reports and a regular newsletter (FLOW Monitor) as a means of sharing our perspective and identifying opportunities for action on Canadian water policy. FLOW has identified transboundary water security as a key issue for Canadians and, in this regard, has expressed strong support for the International Joint Commission and the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909.
The IJC is the binational body created by the 1909 Treaty to resolve disputes between Canada and the U.S. over shared boundary waters. Domestic and international water experts recognize the IJC’s core principles–equal representation, decision by consensus based on joint fact finding, public consultation, objectivity, and flexibility–as real strengths that have made the IJC a model for the rest of the world. The Boundary Waters Treaty was way ahead of its time, and the IJC should be congratulated for a century of unprecedented success in proactively addressing issues of concern in waters shared by Canada and the United States.
For these reasons, FLOW is very concerned that the capacity of the Canadian Section is greatly diminished by the vacancies of two of the three commissioners of the Canadian Section. In particular, one vacancy has existed for over a year. Typically commissioners from the west and Quebec have filled these vacancies, but regardless of their geographic residence, it is critical that a national and broad perspective be brought to bear in all the internal discussions of IJC commissioners. With only one Canadian commissioner, we are concerned that Canadian interests are not being adequately reflected in IJC deliberations which not only hinders the Canadian Section but the IJC as a whole, delaying or making less effective decisions and recommendations dealing with water(s) on which many millions of Canadians depend.
We encourage you to support the Canadian Section of the IJC, and the IJC and the Boundary Waters Treaty in general, by making timely, effective and non-partisan appointments to ensure transboundary water security between Canada and the United States is maintained.
Forum for Leadership on Water (FLOW)
FLOW, Ecojustice and the Centre for Indigenous Environment Resources examine the the status of drinking water quality in Canada through Seeking Water Justice: Strengthening Legal Protection for Canada’s Drinking Water. The report reveals that certain communities in Canada – specifically rural and First Nations - are vulnerable to drinking water contamination. Risks are attributed to inadequate infrastructure, patchwork provincial laws, and a lack of binding drinking water standards from the federal government. The report calls for world-class, enforceable drinking water standards that are consistent across Canada, resources for First Nations drinking water services and transparent reporting on the state of drinking water systems across the country.