James B. Seaborn Served as IJC Chair in the 1980s

IJC staff
January 14, 2020
Former IJC Canadian Chair James Blair Seaborn. Credit: IJC files

It is with regret that we note the passing of James Blair Seaborn, who served as the chairman of the International Joint Commission’s Canadian Section from December 20, 1982, to January 31, 1985, following a distinguished career in Canadian public service. 

Seaborn’s former colleagues have fond memories of working with him.

Murray Clamen, a former IJC engineering adviser, recalls working closely with Seaborn on a report called “Diversions and Consumptive Uses in the Great Lakes.”

The report was issued in January 1985, just before Seaborn’s term ended with the IJC. It was a special report in the sense that it was structured in two parts, differently than most IJC reports at the time.

The first part provided responses to questions issued by the government of Canada as part of the 1977 Great Lakes Diversion and Consumptive Uses Reference.

The second part reviewed a series of topical issues at the time, including “longer-term climatic variations and structural economic change” and “the interrelationship of Great Lakes water quantity and water quality in the context of an ecosystem.”

Seaborn was truly a driving force in pulling together the material needed for the second part of the report, Clamen said.

The document provided the foundation for future work. In 1999, when the governments asked again about water use in the Great Lakes, the request asked the IJC to build on the foundational work laid out in the 1985 report.

Others recall that, even 15 years after his service with the IJC, Seaborn took time to meet with incoming chairs to provide his perspective and advice on the role.

Seaborn was known to be dedicated to his work and put in a great amount of effort toward fulfilling his responsibilities as mandated under the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909.

Seaborn died on November 11, 2019.  He was 95.

IJC staff