Three years ago, my office phone rang. It was Murray Fisher, then Field Coordinator with Waterkeeper Alliance in the United States. “Congratulations,” he said, “Lake Ontario Waterkeeper is the newest member of the Alliance.” Murray then called Mark Mattson, an environmental lawyer and the newly appointed “Waterkeeper” of Lake Ontario.
Acceptance in the Waterkeeper Alliance was an honour. Its members had brought about billions of dollars in remediation, restoring some of the most threatened rivers in North America. At the time, there was no Waterkeeper program responsible for an entire Great Lake, and only one other program in all of Canada.
Fast forward to 2004. Mark is now our President and a member of the Alliance’s board, representing Canadian interests in the organization. We have set up an office on Toronto’s waterfront, worked on issues in a dozen communities on the lake, helped water quality advocates from New Brunswick to British Columbia, and mentored twenty law students.
Waterkeeper fights for fair decision-making and consistent enforcement of environmental laws. Whether we are dealing with the legacy of radioactive waste in Port Hope or the construction of an expressway through Hamilton’s last significant greenspace,Waterkeeper uses existing legal tools to protect our ancient rights.
We do this so that every community has control over its own future. From the commercial fishery on Wolfe Island to the stunning cluster of beaches in Toronto, every community on Lake Ontario has its own unique assets. Their citizens need only safety, accessibility, and informed decision-making processes in order to protect these assets. We see the opportunity to be the Lake Ontario Advisor of GLAHNF as a way to continue to serve communities around the lake with a new set of services.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper’s core programs are Waterkeeper.ca Weekly (our free electronic newsletter) and the Clean Water Workshop (a training program for law students and citizens). Everything we do is open and free to the public, so please feel free to contact us at any time. Also, check out our web site, where we post new articles about Lake Ontario water quality issues daily:www.waterkeeper.ca.