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The mouth of a great lake opens into a large body of water at sunset.


Protecting the Great Lakes

December 19, 2014

The Great Lakes Basin is one of the greatest freshwater ecosystems on Earth.

Today, three of Ontario’s four Great Lakes are in a state of decline. Climate change is leading to an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, which wash more pollutants into our waterways and lakes. Pollution, climate change, and agricultural, industrial and residential development have destroyed almost three-quarters of southern Ontario’s historic wetlands. These wetlands provide habitat for species, filter our drinking water, and protect communities from floods. Pollutants from consumer products, including microplastics or microbeads, are being dumped into the water. Once in the water, microbeads are ingested by wildlife, move up the food chain, and act as sponges for contaminants such as DDT, PCBs and flame retardants.

The cumulative effects of these sources of pollution include increased the frequency and intensity of blue-green algal blooms, fish kills, and beach closures. People are increasingly unable to swim in, fish or drink from the waters that are fundamental to the life of so many Ontario communities.

Protection for the Great Lakes Basin was spread across several provincial ministries under various laws and Ontario’s existing policies and programs were falling short. That is why Ecojustice urged the Government of Ontario to introduce the Great Lakes Protection Act (GLPA).

The Act passed in October 2015. It will require the Ontario government to set science-based targets and develop action plans to address the most severe threats to the lakes, such as habitat loss, the influx of invasive species, and mounting toxic pollutants.

The waters of the Great Lakes are a valuable public resource and every decision that will affect the Great Lakes Basin must prioritize safeguarding it. Since 2012, Ecojustice has supported legislation that would better protect the basin.

The Great Lake Protection Act provides new tools to address environmental stresses that threaten the Great Lakes Basin. It gives citizens and groups the ability to track and measure efforts to improve the lakes’ health and empowers Ontarians to hold the responsible authorities accountable. The Act will also empower local groups to develop solutions to protect their community’s water. An action plan will be mandatory for all targets, and the action plans themselves will contain activities that must be undertaken, specifying mandatory actions to protect regions of the Great Lakes.

The Act also establishes the Great Lakes Guardians Council, a collaborative forum for provincial ministers to discuss priorities, financial measures, and share information. The Environment Minister will convene one or more meetings of the Council each year for the purpose of focusing on one of the Great Lakes watersheds, or on a particular geographic area of the Great Lakes Basin.

Ecojustice staff

Liat Podolsky

Oct 2015
A sandy shore with rocks and trees. The water along the shore is still.

Passage of the Great Lakes Protection Act

The Great Lakes Basin, one of the most important freshwater ecosystems on Earth, just received a whole lot more legal protection as Ontario’s legislature passed the Great Lakes Protection Act this week.
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Paddlers canoeing on lake.
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Ecojustice report analyzes 12 Ontario municipalities to see how they're dealing with sewage pollution and finds that many are still polluting local bodies of water.
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The mouth of a lake opens into a large body of water at sunset.

Some great news for the Great Lakes

Newly announced Great Lakes Protection Act and Great Lakes Strategy from Ontario government draws upon suggestions from an alliance of environmental groups, including Ecojustice.
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A sandy shore with rocks and trees. The water along the shore is still.
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