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Remarks on Signing the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement Between the United States and Canada.

April 15, 1972

Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Foreign Minister, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen:

In responding to the remarks of the Prime Minister, I particularly wish to express at this occasion our grateful appreciation for the warm reception that we have received here. And after having been here for the first time on a state visit, I can only say that we hope that we can return, either on that kind of visit or another kind of visit. Of course, I do not have control over which kind of visit it will be.

When the first European explorers sailed the Great Lakes three centuries ago, they were deeply moved by the Lakes' striking beauty and boundless promise. And from that time to this, generation after generation of Canadians and Americans have looked upon the Great Lakes as great highways to the future for both of our countries.

But in recent years, as we know, the quality of the Great Lakes' water has been declining, with ominous implications for 30 million Americans and 7 million Canadians who live near their shores.

The signing today of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement represents a significant step toward reversing that decline. This agreement extends a great tradition of cooperation between the United States and Canada. Just as the St. Lawrence Seaway transformed the Great Lakes into highways of peaceful commerce among nations, so the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement can make them great symbols of international cooperation as man makes his peace with nature.

This agreement represents an important beginning, one which has been made possible by the cooperation of our two national governments and of State and Provincial governments as well. And now we must all follow through on the beginning. Under the agreement, the International Joint Commission will provide important leadership in this effort.

But it is also essential that governments at all levels, in both of our countries, and private industry as well, work within their own constitutional frameworks to achieve the objectives the agreement defines.

It is with very great pride and pleasure that I have signed the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between Canada and the United States, for this agreement bears witness to all the world of great concerns which unite our two countries: our common appreciation for the natural heritage which undergirds our national strengths, our common recognition that problems which cross international boundaries require international solutions, and our common confidence that our traditional relationship can grow to meet new demands.

Note: The President spoke at 9:35 a.m. in the Confederation Room, West Block, Parliament Hill, Ottawa, in response to the remarks of Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

The President spoke from a prepared text. An advance text of his remarks was released on the same day.

The text of the Prime Minister's remarks was made available by the Embassy of Canada in Washington as follows:

President Nixon, Secretary Rogers, Premier Davis, Minister Goldbloom, distinguished guests:

The importance of what we have done this morning cannot be described or measured by conventional means, for this agreement does not fall within the normal categories of international activity. It will not contribute materially to the economies of either of our countries; it makes neither of us more secure in our relations with one another or the world beyond; it does little to diminish or remove any of the social problems which worry Americans and Canadians alike. Yet while doing none of these things it accomplishes much more. For it marks our recognition of the fragility of our planet and the delicacy of the biosphere on which all life is dependent. This agreement deals with the most vital of all issues--the process of life itself. And in doing so it contributes to the well-being of millions of North Americans, for it promises to restore to a wholesome condition an immense area which, through greed and indifference, has been permitted to deteriorate disgracefully.
[After delivering the above remarks in English, the Prime Minister continued his remarks in French. A translation follows:]

Any catalogue of the distinctive features of this continent surely includes the far-flung water system we know as the Great Lakes. In them is contained the world's largest reservoir of fresh water. Out of them flows one of the world's mightiest and most important rivers. The beauty and the utility of these waters have proved attractive to men for centuries. That attractiveness has led to extraordinary changes. The birchbark canoes of the Indians and the coureurs-de-bois have given way to giant oceangoing vessels; the handful of explorers who earlier stood in awe at the beauty of Niagara Falls or the Thousand Islands have been replaced by millions of tourists; the first few settlements and factories have burgeoned into sprawling cities and giant industrial complexes. In the process the lakes have suffered.

[The Prime Minister then resumed speaking in English: ]

We now have the opportunity and the responsibility to ease that suffering and to restore to the Great Lakes a large measure of the purity which once was theirs. That task is being shared by those Provinces and States that border the lakes and whose governments have encouraged this agreement and contributed to its success. The presence here this morning of the Premier of Ontario [William C. Davis] and the Minister of the Environment of Quebec [Victor C. Goldbloom] as well as the members of the IJC [International Joint Commission] is proof of the solid foundation of support which our acts enjoy. The tireless dedication of the Canadian Minister of the Environment, Mr. Jack Davis, is recognized in what we are doing, as is the fine level of cooperation which he enjoys with his American colleagues present this morning, Mr. Train and Mr. Ruckelshaus. This treaty is an example to the world of the interdependence of all men and women and of the advantages which flow from cooperative measures. Indeed, Mr. President, your visit to Canada this week offers an opportunity to all nations to note the high standards which Canadians and Americans have achieved in their neighborhood, of the benefit, which flow from their friendly competition, of the room which exists for their individuality. In our talks yesterday each of us assured himself that he understood the other; each of us dedicated himself to the continuation of a relationship which has few parallels in history and which owes as much to the willingness of the American people to accept on their northern border an independent state, with all the differences that that entails, as it does to the desire of Canadians to pursue their own destiny. Canadians are happy that you came, Mr. President. We hope you will come again. We wish you and Mrs. Nixon a safe journey home and wisdom and stamina in the important days ahead.

On the same day, the White House also released a fact sheet and the transcript of a news briefing on the agreement. Participants in the news briefing were George Soteroft, Chief Information Officer, Fisheries Service, Hon. Jack Davis, Minister, and A. T. Davidson, Assistant Deputy Minister, Policy, Planning, and Research, Department of the Environment, Canada; W. K. Wardroper, Director General, Economic and Scientific Affairs, Department of External Affairs, Canada; Russell E. Train, Chairman, Council on Environmental Quality; and William D. Ruckelshaus, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency.

Richard Nixon, Remarks on Signing the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement Between the United States and Canada. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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