Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to this emergency debate on the Devils Lake outlet.
I will be sharing my time with my colleague and friend, the Minister of the Environment, who is also very committed to this important issue for our government.
Canada believes the Boundary Waters Treaty is fundamental to the management and protection of the boundary and transboundary waters between Canada and the United States. We are very determined to defend the integrity of the treaty and the role of the International Joint Commission.
The government has conveyed Canada's concerns regarding the North Dakota Devils Lake outlet to the highest levels of the United States government on many occasions over the past number of years. We have worked diligently with the government of Manitoba and all Manitobans to present our concerns to the U.S. government.
We have garnered widespread support in the United States for our position on Devils Lake. The governors of Minnesota, Missouri and Ohio and congressional representatives from Minnesota, Ohio, New York, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Washington and Arizona have all supported Canada's position on Devils Lake.
The Assembly of First Nations, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence mayors, the Great Lakes Commission and Premiers McGuinty and Charest of Ontario and Quebec have all voiced their concerns about the Devils Lake outlet.
Why has there been overwhelming support for Canada's position on Devils Lake? It is because everyone recognizes that a remarkable percentage of the border we share with the United States is made up of water. In fact, some 3,500 kilometres of the border, from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean, is made up of boundary waters. That is a lot of water, and consequently, people on both sides of the border recognize the importance of binational management of the border waters. This is why so many diverse organizations and political leaders have supported Canada and our stand against the Devils Lake outlet.
Our work on Devils Lake began a number of years ago. We have consistently and repeatedly expressed our concerns that an outlet from Devils Lake would pose an environmental risk to the waters of the Red River and Lake Winnipeg.
Our position is quite simple. In 1909 Canada and the United Stages signed the Boundary Waters Treaty, under which both countries agreed to protect water resources on either side of the border. To quote from article 4 of the treaty:
--waters flowing across the boundary shall not be polluted on either side to the injury of health or property on the other.
To date, the Boundary Waters Treaty has proven extremely valuable to both countries. The independent, binational International Joint Commission, the IJC, was established by the treaty to provide the principles and mechanisms to help resolve disputes and prevent future ones, primarily those concerning water quantity and quality along the boundary between the United States and Canada. Preserving the integrity of the Boundary Waters Treaty is critical to both countries.
Canada first raised concerns about a possible state funded North Dakota outlet in 1999. We have consistently expressed our concerns about biota transfer from Devils Lake into the Red River and Lake Winnipeg. We have raised questions about the impact of the Devils Lake outlet on water quality in the Red River basin and what the socio-economic impact will be to downstream water users in Manitoba.
In 2002, the United States made a referral to the IJC, but concerning an entirely different reservoir proposed by the United States federal government.
The Conservatives are plain wrong when they say that the United States proposed a referral to the IJC for this project. It was for another project completely. It was about an outlet proposed by the federal authorities of the United States, not the one by the state of North Dakota. Things must be clear in the House.
Canada said at the time that it would be premature to send it to the joint commission as long as the environmental assessment had not been completed.
The 2002-03 environmental assessment was very contentious. The project was strongly opposed, particularly by Minnesota, Missouri, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Canada and Manitoba.
Canada announced it was prepared to discuss several North Dakota water diversion plans being developed at the time, which may have repercussions under the Boundary Waters Treaty.
When the state of North Dakota began construction of the Devils Lake outlet, we made our concerns known and we sought assurances from the United States that the Boundary Waters Treaty would be respected. This is why in April 2004 we asked the United States to join with us in referring the Devils Lake outlet project to the International Joint Commission for an independent, scientific assessment of the outlet.
The International Joint Commission has a proven track record in helping the governments of Canada and the United States resolve difficult and contentious issues along our shared waters.
Over the past number of months, the government has pulled out all stops in our effort to reach a resolution on Devils Lake. Ambassador McKenna has called on congressional leaders and met with governors to discuss Canada's concerns with the outlet and to seek their support in referring this to the International Joint Commission. The Prime Minister has spoken to the president to underline the importance of Devils Lake to Canada. This type of leadership is making a difference and is welcomed and recognized by our supporters.
Let me quote from an article authored by the Friends of the Earth. It states, “To his credit, Canada's Prime Minister...has raised Canada's concerns about the Devils Lake scheme directly with [President Bush]”. Not only has the Prime Minister intervened, but cabinet ministers have spoken to their U.S. colleagues to ensure that everyone is aware of Canada's concerns.
Although we are still working hard to find a resolution, our efforts to date have met with some success. We have been able to dramatically raise awareness about our concerns with the outlet and, more important, we have reached out and obtained the support of dozens of members of Congress, mayors, governors, environmental organizations and U.S. editorial writers.
Because of our intensive efforts, we now have the White House Council of Environmental Quality involved in the discussions. Those discussions are continuing and this government is committed to pursuing a solution that protects Canada's environment and respects the Boundary Waters Treaty.
Canada is determined to find a solution that respects the Boundary Waters Treaty, that commits both governments to cooperating in order to prevent transboundary pollution. Whether through the International Joint Commission or any other mechanism that works with the treaty, our goal is to find a solution to prevent the migration of invasive species from Devils Lake.