The International Joint Commission has developed an extensive history of public consultation and involvement over its almost 90-year history, based on requirements in the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to provide all interested parties a convenient opportunity to be heard on matters under consideration. Under the Rules of Procedure, the Commission also is required to hold public hearings before issuing its reports. And, while nothing is specifically included in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement on public consultation, it does require that the Commission provide a public information service for the Commission and its Boards.

Over the past 24 years, the Commission and its Agreement Boards have used many different approaches to involve the public in its evaluation process, some with more success than others. Since the early 1980s, the Commission's Agreement consultation efforts have centered on a Biennial Meeting, held before the Commission prepares its biennial evaluation of progress. However, as the public participation field has evolved and as the issues to be addressed have become more complex and integrative, the Commission felt that a more contemporary set of approaches was needed to effectively consult with the wide range of people interested in Great Lakes water quality issues.

To maintain and improve its record in this area, and in anticipation of the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in April 1997, the Commission recently completed an internal and external review of its consultation processes for the Agreement. As a result of its findings, a new, expanded program of consultation has been created to ensure that the Commission consults with the widest range of people possible in its evaluation of Agreement progress. The Commission has designed this new consultative process to ensure greater interaction and dialogue between and among all participants in its various sessions, in addition to the traditional methods of communication via telephone, letter writing and public meetings. The process allows the Commission to focus its consultation with others to ensure that it is receiving detailed and informative comments from all interested publics in the region, in formats that encourage interaction and discussion.

The Commission acknowledges that certain aspects of previous Biennial Meetings have provided a worthwhile link to the public for several years. The following approaches include elements of the previous Biennial Meeting format that have been successful, such as workshops, providing networking opportunities, educational youth programs, and media exposure. It replaces those elements that have become static with forums that are less formal, and designed to achieve greater interaction with and among people from the various public groups throughout each two-year cycle to review progress and produce its biennial reports. The Commission will review this process at the end of 1997, to determine what adjustments are necessary to ensure widespread consultation throughout the Great Lakes basin.

Consultation Goals

While the two federal governments have primary responsibility for the Agreement, the Great Lakes community has increasingly recognized in recent years that a basinwide effort is required to accomplish the Agreement's goals and objectives. To obtain the widest range of information and views about Agreement progress, the Commission's goals for its consultation strategy are to:

Through this process, participants will have the opportunity to:

Consultation Approaches

The above range of goals and objectives can be accomplished through several specific approaches. The Commission's previous approaches to public involvement have focused on education and information feedback. However, to reach and consult effectively with the various people involved in Agreement issues, the Commission is extending its approaches to include these options as well as consultation. A range of approaches are available to the Commission to accomplish these goals, from information sessions, public hearings or meetings, to focus group interviews, workshops, and roundtables. Because the Commission needs to consult with a wide variety of groups and people -- both internally and externally -- to effectively evaluate Agreement progress, these approaches will be used in combination, recognizing that various formats and sites will suit some more than others. By doing so, it will effectively consult with its internal advisory groups; with governments, environmental nongovernment organizations, industry, labour and First Nations/Natives; with international organizations and media, educators, children and youth; with communities at risk; and with the general public.

This pilot consultation process recognizes that more than one year of the Commission's current priority cycle has already elapsed and the Commission's advisory groups have planned and held several workshops and other events to provide advice on the present range of priorities; these are incorporated, as appropriate, into the pilot consultation approach. The pilot strategy also takes cognizance that it is a major shift in the Commission's consultation methods; it therefore endeavours to help the various groups adjust to new ways of providing information and consulting with the Commission and with each other through a variety of consultation options, recognizing that all approaches used in the pilot process may not be used in future biennial cycles.

The following table and figure summarize the eight consultation approaches that will be included in this pilot stage. Further details will be provided as each stage is undertaken. For additional information, please contact:

Frank Bevacqua, Information Officer, U.S. Section
1250 23rd Street NW, Suite 100, Washington, D.C. 20440
Telephone: 202.736.9024
Fax: 202.736.9015

Geoffrey Thornburn, Economic Advisor, Canadian Section
100 Metcalfe Street, 18th Floor, Ottawa, ON K1P 5M1
Telephone: 613.995.0433
Fax: 613.993.5583

Marty P. Bratzel, Jr., Great Lakes Regional Office
100 Ouellette Avenue, Windsor, ON N9A 6T3 or P.O. Box 32869, Detroit, MI 48232
Telephone: 519.257.6701 or 313.226.2170
Fax: 519.257.6740

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TABLE 1 1995-1997 Biennial Consultation Process

Sector Papers Annex 2 Site Visits Focus Group Interviews
Purpose Attempt to secure precise input from various Great Lakes community groups needed by IJC to evaluate progress. Secure input at community and lakewide levels. Develop stronger communication links with selected sectors.
By whom Commission Commission Commission
Format Invite papers from key sector leaders. Provide short issue paper with consultation questions to frame discussion. Use consultation questions to focus public meetings throughout biennial cycle. 2-3 hour, informal public meetings during site visits. Research local watershed protection activities and invite key players to make short presentations. Three-hour structured discussion with approximately 4 - 6 representatives of selected sector.
Issues Assess Agreement progress and identify changes needed to reach Agreement goals. Assess Agreement progress and identify changes needed to reach Agreement goals. What are key emerging issues? What actions would most effectively protect human and ecosystem health?
Target Audience Industry, ENGOs, labour, First Nations/Natives, international organizations, governments, educators, children/youth Local industry, community activists, agency personnel and other interested citizens
  1. First Nations/Natives
  2. Industry
  3. Labour
Site Nov. 1996: Detroit
March 1997: Hamilton
June 1997: Sault Ste. Marie
To be determined
Timing November 1996: distribute invitation and issue paper. June 1997: Sector papers due. July 1997: Roundtable to receive sector input (see at right). Evening session during site visit
  1. February 1997
  2. April 1997
  3. June 1997
Product Written reports: sector viewpoints and insight on Agreement progress, future direction and action Improved linkage with communities; better understanding and appreciation of issues at local level; educational experience Briefing paper; informal networking

TABLE 1 (Continued) 1995-1997 Biennial Consultation Process

Board Annual Public Meetings Workshops Roundtables Agreement Public Forum
Purpose Integrate the Boards more fully into consultation process and secure input at community and regional levels. Integrate the Boards more fully into consultation process and secure a wider range of information on current priorities. Encourage discussion and debate among participants about possible conclusions and actions on Agreement progress. Provide convenient opportunity for public to be heard and interact with Commissioners prior to IJC formulating recommendations
By whom Boards and Council; Commissioners attend Boards and Council; Commissioners attend Commission Commission
Format Informal public meetings. Research local watershed protection activities and invite key players. Possibilities: a gallery of observers, Q&A sessions, separate evening public briefing sessions, etc. 1 to 1.5 day facilitated roundtable discussions among Commissioners and approximately 12-18 sector group representatives 1 to 2-day facilitated opportunity for statements. Setting will be less formal than previous public meetings and more interactive.
Issues Assess Agreement progress and identify changes needed to reach Agreement goals. 13 workshops and conferences, including two with public consultation sessions:
  1. Agricultural pollution prevention
  2. Atmospheric pollution and health
What progress has been made, from your sector's perspective, and what is your vision of Agreement work for the next 25 years? What common ground is there, and what actions can we take individually and collectively to restore and protect the Great Lakes? Assess Agreement progress and identify changes needed to reach Agreement goals.
Target Audience Local industry, community activists, agency personnel and other interested citizens Citizens interested in issue
  1. First roundtable: respondents to sector letter request
  2. Second roundtable: cross-section of basin sector leaders/representatives
Interested citizens
Site Various Great Lakes basin sites
  1. Madison, WI
  2. To be determined
  1. Ann Arbor, Michigan
  2. Niagara Falls, Ontario
Niagara Falls, Ontario
Timing October 1996: WQB
Nov. 1996: CGLRM
Nov. 1996: SAB
Nov. 1996: IAQAB/HPTF
  1. August 8, 1996
  2. April 1997
  1. July 1997
  2. October 1997
November 1-2, 1997
Product Improved interaction with local communities; briefing paper Formal written reports with targeted advice Written advice, recommendations and action plans focussing on past progress and future goals Transcribed recording; broad-based pulse of public opinion

WQB = Water Quality Board;
CGLRM = Council of Great Lakes Research Managers;
SAB = Science Advisory Board;
IAQAB = International Air Quality Advisory Board;
HPTF = Health Professionals Task Force;
ENGO = Environmental Non-Government Organization