Canada-Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes: annex 13

Annex 13: engaging First Nations

There are many First Nations communities within the Great Lakes basin. First Nations value their spiritual and cultural relationship to the waters of the Great Lakes. They contribute to the protection of Great Lakes water quality and ecosystem health through the wise use and management of land and water in their communities. 

Canada and Ontario work with First Nations on a good governance basis on a wide range of environmental protection issues. Through this Agreement, there are numerous opportunities for First Nations, as members of the broader Great Lakes community, to participate in Great Lakes restoration, protection and conservation initiatives. The purpose of this Annex is to reflect the interests and important role of First Nations as participants in the restoration, protection and conservation of the Great Lakes. It will provide a framework for Canada and Ontario to engage First Nations during the implementation of this Agreement and to consider their traditional knowledge to assist in restoring, protecting and conserving Great Lakes water quality and ecosystem health.

This Annex supports commitments in the Canada-United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and advances the environmental goals of Ontario’s Great Lakes Strategy. Goals within this Annex are intended to continue collaboration, strengthen relationships and to pursue opportunities to protect the Great Lakes.

Goal 1: Collaborate and build relationships with First Nations to assist in restoring, protecting and conserving Great Lakes water quality and ecosystem health.

Result 1.1 - Opportunities to collaborate with First Nations in the delivery of this agreement.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Invite First Nations to meet annually with Canada-Ontario Agreement (COA) Executive Committee co-chairs to discuss Great Lakes issues, as well as priorities and actions planned to achieve COA goals.
  • (b) Invite First Nations to participate in existing engagement processes that help support annex-specific issues including those related to harmful pollutants; lakewide action and management plans; lake ecosystem objectives and a nearshore framework; phosphorus concentration and load reduction targets; lake-specific biodiversity conservation strategies; and in other issue-specific engagement processes that may arise during the implementation of this agreement; and
  • (c) Identify opportunities and mechanisms to communicate and collaborate with First Nations in areas of concern (AOCs) during the process of delisting an AOC or designating it as an AOC in recovery, and during the development and implementation of priority actions.

Ontario will:

  • (d) Engage First Nation communities, especially those that rely on fish as an important nutritional source for their diet, on reducing their potential exposure to chemicals of concern; and
  • (e) Support capacity building to enable greater participation by First Nations organizations and communities in Great Lakes restoration, protection and conservation efforts in priority areas.

Goal 2: Enhance understanding and appreciation for the Great Lakes by considering traditional knowledge.

Result 2.1 - Opportunities to collaborate with First Nations on traditional knowledge.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Identify and support a pilot project or projects to demonstrate the use of traditional knowledge in contributing to understanding and addressing Great Lakes issues; and
  • (b) Promote a symposium on traditional knowledge and how it can be used to effectively support decision making on Great Lakes issues.
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