On behalf of Ottawa Riverkeeper, as well as our thousands of active supporters, I want to congratulate you on becoming Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change. The ecological and economic implications of climate change have been named as a priority issue by a majority of Canadians. Urgent and impactful action is clearly needed to address the complex challenges facing our environment, especially our vital freshwater resources.
For nearly 20 years, Ottawa Riverkeeper has been a champion for swimmable, drinkable, fishable water, acting as a bridge between the diverse communities living in the Ottawa River Watershed. We have been working in collaboration with the federal government, provincial counterparts, municipalities, and First Nations to protect the river’s complex ecosystem and promote the public’s access to it. This unique position has allowed us to build a solid and recognized expertise that continues to be solicited by a wide range of policy-makers.
One issue that remains at the top of our list of concerns is the proposal for a near-surface nuclear waste disposal site at Chalk River, on the banks of the Ottawa river. But, of even greater significance is the fact that Canada does not have any laws in place to regulate the disposal of nuclear waste. Considering the serious and long-lasting implications of a potential leak into the Ottawa river, this legislative gap must be addressed promptly. The Ottawa River watershed is a source of drinking water for close to 2 million people, so keeping it clean is a fundamental obligation.
The massive flooding in 2017 and 2019 in the National Capital Region highlighted another area where the federal government could play a more active role. The rising water caused thousands of riverfront residents to be evacuated, millions of dollars in property damages, and destroyed some precious wetland habitats. Communities continue to feel the devastating impacts of climate change. While no jurisdiction can be expected to shoulder all the risks associated with flooding, all jurisdictions are expected to collaborate to prevent disasters and mitigate the impacts on those who are affected. We have long been calling for increased collaboration in the Ottawa River watershed, and would be delighted to discuss this further with you.
With our recognized expertise, Ottawa Riverkeeper stands ready to assist you as you begin to fulfill your ambitious mandate. To this end, we would like to suggest the possibility of meeting with you to explore a number of initiatives that would allow you to make tangible gains for Canadians. When it comes to protecting our precious water resources, our staff and expert advisors we are ready to convene key partners and work together to take action.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.