PABLO — President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have missed their self-imposed deadline of Sept. 21, 2023, to reach an agreement to reduce pollution seeping from Canada into the United States.
In March, the two leaders committed to working with Indigenous Tribes and First Nations, including the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) to include Native voices when addressing the transboundary watershed.
In a joint statement, President Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau said:
The United States and Canada also intend to reach an agreement in principle by this summer to reduce and mitigate the impacts of water pollution in the Elk-Kootenai watershed, in partnership with Tribal Nations and Indigenous Peoples, and in order to protect the people and species that depend on this vital river system.
CSKT Chairman Tom McDonald says President Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau broke their promise to work with the transboundary tribes to address the pollution before the end of summer.
"The day before the deadline ended, that’s when Global Affairs came up with this ridiculous solution that we’ll do something that was International Joint Commission," he explained, "And by the way, we’re really not going to include you,” McDonald said.
He stated that Global Affairs Canada's almost-late solution was to make their own boundary waters treaty reference, leaving out the U.S. as well as the Tribes and First Nations.
McDonald told MTN News the Tribes have to urge Canada more than the U.S. to assess the pollution and give Indigenous Tribes and First Nations a seat at the table when it comes to mitigation solutions.
“If you’re communicating and being respectful and inclusive, why wouldn’t you listen to the concerned parties and stakeholders?” he asked.
The focus now shifts to the future and the big questions are what is next and what is needed?
“We need to meet together, all of our governments, let’s get a plan together, we’ve already made a great proposal," McDonald stated, referencing the Ktunaxa Proposal.
The Tribes and First Nations are seeking the International Joint Commission, the unbiased body that prevents and resolves transboundary watershed disputes between the U.S. and Canada.
This “two-pronged approach” is based on (1) the need for an IJC-established Watershed Board to conduct an independent, transparent, and accountable scientific assessment of pollution in the watershed and perform ongoing monitoring, and (2) the parallel need for a governance plan that guarantees both federal governments and all six Ktunaxa governments an equal seat at the table to immediately begin to implement solutions, restore the waters, and ensure effective regulation and management of the watershed going forward. The Ktunaxa proposal aims to bridge the draft IJC reference put forward by the U.S. and the call for a governance table from Canada.
Global Affairs Canada acknowledged that they are behind on this issue, "Remarks made at a conference at the end of September by a Global Affairs Canada representative that 'Canada knows that they are late with their homework' have spurred Ktunaxa Leadership to initiate a government-to-government-to-government meeting to be set in November.
The Ktunaxa Nation wants to come to a solution before the end of the year.