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Federal report card on Lake Winnipeg: some progress, one failure, Budget 2022 opportunity

Update: The federal budget was released on April 7 – and the freshwater funding announced within it is shockingly lower than the government’s election commitment. Our report card had assigned a B grade in anticipation of the promised renewal of the Lake Winnipeg Basin Program. That grade has been swiftly downgraded to an F. What does the future hold for regional water-protection initiatives across Canada? Read our Budget 2022 reaction to learn more.

On World Water Day (March 22), LWF and our partners at the Lake Winnipeg Indigenous Collective (LWIC) are releasing a report card which grades the federal government’s performance on Lake Winnipeg.

The Year One report card assesses progress made on recommendations presented in Five Things the Federal Government Must Do for Lake Winnipega discussion paper released by LWF and LWIC in December 2020.

The results? Some progress, one failure – and a need for immediate investment through Budget 2022.

We’re calling for:

  • Renewed federal funding for Lake Winnipeg;
  • Targeted funding to phosphorus hotspots; and
  • Meaningful inclusion of Indigenous knowledge in freshwater policy and management.

The need to improve the health of Lake Winnipeg has been acknowledged for years through the policy priorities, mandate letters and throne speeches of successive federal governments. We know what we need to do. We have the tools to do it. What’s missing is follow-through.

How we graded

Under the paper’s five overarching recommendations, we assigned grades to 13 immediate actions – necessary first steps to improve the health of Lake Winnipeg. We received publicly available documents and statements related to federal commitments for Lake Winnipeg, and considered the five-year timeline in which each action can be achieved.

One F grade was given in response to the recommendation to include Indigenous governments as signatories to the Canada-Manitoba Memorandum of Understanding Respecting Lake Winnipeg and the Lake Winnipeg Basin. The MOU was renewed in August 2021 by the governments of Canada and Manitoba, which failed to include Indigenous peoples as signatories.

B grades were assigned to three immediate actions, in recognition that the federal government is on track towards fulfilment with opportunities for improvement. No A grades were assigned.

Lake Winnipeg is the world’s 10th largest freshwater lake, and part of the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, Nehiyaw, Oji-Cree and Dakota peoples, and the homeland of the Métis Nation. Drawing its water from over a million square kilometres, the lake sustains vital ecological biodiversity, drives local economies and livelihoods, and is essential to cultural and spiritual identity.

Today’s report card is a reminder that good intentions, symbolic gestures and funding announcements are not enough. We must draw upon the depth of evidence from scientists and Indigenous knowledge holders to address long-standing and pervasive harms to our shared lake. It’s time for the federal government to follow through on past commitments.

You can read the full report on our website

Help us hold the federal government accountable

Get active online: Follow LWF on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and follow the Lake Winnipeg Indigenous Collective on Facebook and Instagram. Then, like and share our World Water Day posts to help spread the message!

Want to communicate directly with key federal decision-makers in advance of Budget 2022? Tag them on social media and tell them you expect targeted investment in Lake Winnipeg

Budget 2022 must invest in Lake Winnipeg. It’s time to complete the assignment. 

Your gift makes a healthy Lake Winnipeg possible.

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