Response to Private Member’s Motion on creation of Ottawa River Watershed Council

The Government of Canada is conducting a study in response to Motion M-104. The study is examining: natural, cultural, heritage and economic values associated with the Ottawa River watershed; important indicators for assessing the health of the Ottawa River watershed; and the potential creation of an Ottawa River Watershed Council.

The Ottawa River defines the border between Québec and Ontario over much of its course. The river supports key recreational, industrial and ecological roles. Its basin is one of Canada’s largest watersheds, containing over 200 municipalities, including the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau. The watershed is ecologically diverse and historically important. It plays a central role in the lives of many Canadians, including Indigenous groups.

The geographic scope of the study is the Ottawa River watershed. This includes the river from its headwaters source in Québec’s Laurentian Mountains to its link with the St. Lawrence River at the Lake of Two Mountains. It will also include the streams, rivers and lakes that connect to the Ottawa River.

There will be engagement of groups within and around the watershed. Among others, these groups will include:

  • the governments of Ontario and Québec
  • Indigenous groups
  • local watershed groups
  • industry representatives
  • diversity groups
  • non-governmental organizations
  • academia
  • general public

The following will be examined for the Ottawa River watershed:

  • governance structure, including the roles and responsibilities of governments for land, water-use, and other resource management
  • the importance of key ecosystems and current measures to conserve and protect them
  • its historical, cultural and heritage importance, and current measures to protect that heritage, especially for Indigenous groups
  • its socio-economic importance, such as industrial, recreational, transportation and subsistence uses

The study helps fulfil the federal government’s freshwater mandate priorities. The study supports the government’s pledge to treat water as a precious resource that deserves protection and careful management.

The Ottawa River is the biggest river flowing into St. Lawrence River. Protection of the St. Lawrence River is a shared priority for the federal government and the government of Quebec, through the Canada-Quebec Agreement (2011-2026) on the St. Lawrence.

This study could help determine information and governance gaps affecting the Ottawa River watershed. It could also lead to greater partnership with other levels of government, Indigenous groups, and stakeholders.

The study itself will not affect human health, economic growth, or the environment. However, there will be an examination of the effects of a potential Ottawa River Watershed Council, and its potential contributions to the 2016-2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.

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