The International Joint Commission (IJC) and the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (MCA) met on October 8th on Kawehno:ke (Cornwall Island) to discuss issues of mutual concern, including the Grasse River Remediation project; other issues related to the progress of governments in meeting the objectives of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement; as well as a joint MCA – IJC board project to develop a common approach to frame fish consumption advisories that consider benefits and impacts of fish consumption and address the concerns of anglers, Tribes, and First Nations for the binational section of the Saint Lawrence River.

Tsi Snaihne District Chief Joe Lazore said, “These gatherings represent a strong and respectful effort to work together on behalf of Mother Earth and the land and waterways we share.”

IJC Commissioners are U.S. or Canadian government appointees, and for decades, the MCA had encouraged governments to appoint indigenous people to the Commission. This was a historic meeting, as Dr. Henry Lickers, a long-time resident, employee of the MCA, and advocate for the restoration of the Akwesasne environment, participated as the IJC’s first indigenous Commissioner.

While the governments are responsible for implementing the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the Commissioners have an important role in seeking comment and reporting on the governments’ progress to restore water quality. The IJC will consider what it heard from the Mohawk Council when it makes recommendations to the governments in its next Triennial Assessment of Progress Report on priority actions the governments need to take to fulfill their commitments under the agreement. The report is expected to be finalized next spring.

Canadian Chair Beland said, “It was good for the IJC to have this meeting with the Mohawk Council, so we could both hear their specific concerns to report to the governments, and to continue to develop a meaningful and productive relationship for the future.”

The IJC is committed to working with the MCA through their Environmental Office and the IJC’s Health Professional Advisory Board to undertake the Frame for Fish Consumption Advisories project.