Canadian government launch strategy to prohibit water export

Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy and Environment Minister Christine Stewart on February 10 1999 announced a strategy to prohibit the bulk removal of water - including water for export - from Canadian watersheds.


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The strategy responds to Canadian concerns about the security of Canada’s freshwater resources and is consistent with the motion on water security adopted by the Canadian House of Commons on Tuesday, February 9, 1999.

The new strategy includes:

  Amendments to the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act (IBWTA) to give the federal government regulatory power to prohibit bulk removals from boundary waters, principally the Great Lakes.

  A joint reference – with the United States – to the International Joint Commission (IJC) to study the effects of water consumption, diversion and removal, including for export from boundary waters. The IJC will make recommendations to Canada and the United States on the management and protection of waters shared by the two countries.

  A proposal to develop, in co-operation with the provinces and territories, a Canada-wide accord on bulk water removals to protect Canadian watersheds. The ministers called on those provinces and territories that have not already done so to adopt moratoriums on bulk water removal while the accord is being developed.

British Columbia and Alberta have legislation that prohibits the removal of water, including for export. Ontario is finalising regulations to accomplish the same goal. Other provinces are moving forward with similar policies.

“A comprehensive, long-term approach can be developed that protects our water resources and respects federal/provincial/territorial jurisdictions,” said Minister Axworthy. “Today’s federal measures set in train an approach to ensure the security of Canada’s water over the long term.”

This strategy is consistent with the statement by the three NAFTA countries in 1993 that “unless water in any form has entered into commerce and become a good or product, it is not covered by the provisions of any trade agreement, including the NAFTA.”

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