Canada and Ontario mark 50th anniversary of Great Lakes Agreement by signing ninth agreement

News release

May 27, 2021 – Toronto, Ontario

The Great Lakes are a treasured resource that are integral to the health and well-being of millions of Canadians. Canada and Ontario are committed to strong, ongoing collaboration with their partners to protect and restore the Great Lakes.

Today, the Governments of Canada and Ontario announced that they have signed the new Canada-Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health, which sets out specific actions each government will take to protect and restore the Great Lakes, such as preventing toxic and nuisance algae, improving wastewater and stormwater management, reducing plastic pollution and excess road salt, restoring native species and habitats, and increasing resilience to climate change.

This is the ninth agreement between the two governments and marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the first Canada-Ontario Agreement in 1971. The agreement includes a renewed commitment to completing environmental clean-up actions with an emphasis on six historically degraded areas, conserving key habitats around the Great Lakes, and continuing to restore Lake Erie. It also includes a new focus on protecting Lake Ontario, supporting nature-based recreation opportunities, and strengthening First Nation and Métis engagement in the implementation of the agreement.

The Great Lakes have responded well to past protection efforts. Ontario and Canada’s commitments in the agreement recognize the importance of collective action and continuing to strengthen our work to protect and restore the Great Lakes.

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“The Great Lakes are an invaluable resource to millions of Canadians, holding more than a fifth of the world’s surface freshwater. Today’s new agreement, which marks 50 years of Canada-Ontario Agreements on the Great Lakes, is an important step toward creating a cleaner, healthier future. I am pleased to see this critical commitment between our two governments to continue protecting and restoring the Great Lakes for future generations.”
– The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

“Canada and Ontario have a long history of working together to protect and restore the Great Lakes and we’ve seen tremendous improvements in these vital waterways. The health of the Great Lakes is important not only to our natural environment, but also to the local economies and communities that depend on them every day. We look forward to continuing to work with all of our partners to safeguard the world’s largest freshwater lake system now, and for generations to come.”
– The Honourable Jeff Yurek, Ontario Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks

“The previous Canada-Ontario Agreement allowed my ministry to undertake important work, such as restoring over 2,400 hectares of habitat and rehabilitating almost 32 km of tributaries in the Great Lakes basin ecosystem. With this new agreement, my ministry is committed to the prevention and management of aquatic invasive species and conserving our native species and habitats. I’m proud of the work that has already been done and am looking forward to seeing what we can achieve together under this new agreement.”
– The Honourable John Yakabuski, Ontario Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry

“Improving the water quality for the Great Lakes is an important piece of our government’s environmental plan. As a critical shared resource, protecting them is also a shared responsibility. That’s why Ontario supports sustainable farming practices that build soil health, enhance water quality, and develop resiliency to a changing climate.”
– The Honourable Ernie Hardeman, Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

Quick facts

  • The ninth Canada-Ontario Agreement supports the continued implementation of the Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and the Canada-Ontario Lake Erie Action Plan, which was developed to reduce the amount of phosphorus entering Lake Erie, and address the growth of toxic and nuisance algae.

  • The Great Lakes play a vital role in the physical, social, and economic life of both Canada and Ontario, and support almost 40 percent of Canada’s economic activity.

  • Twenty percent of the world’s surface fresh water is found in the Great Lakes, making it the largest freshwater lake system in the world.

  • Ninety-nine percent of Ontarians live in the Great Lakes Basin and 95 percent of Ontario’s agricultural lands are in the Great Lakes Basin.

  • Ontario invests approximately $14 million per year in actions to protect and restore the Great Lakes, including projects that support commitments in the Canada-Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health and Ontario’s Great Lakes Strategy.

  • Through the Great Lakes Protection Initiative, announced in 2017, Canada is investing $44.84 million in science and action to address environmental challenges affecting the lakes. Canadian federal programs such as the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, Chemicals Management Plan, and Nature Fund also contribute to the protection of Canada’s freshwaters, including the Great Lakes.

Associated links


Environment and Climate Change Canada

Moira Kelly
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Media Relations
Environment and Climate Change Canada
819-938-3338 or 1-844-836-7799 (toll-free)

Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks

Andrew Buttigieg
Minister’s Office

Gary Wheeler
Communications Branch

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