The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, OC, OOnt, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario shares her Watermark.
My earliest memory of thinking about water is the telling and the re-telling of the story of my father and his two friends crossing the huge Atlantic Ocean to find his fortune in Canada. It was a story of adventure. I came months later by plane, and could not imagine the time it must have taken him to cross by ship. My second thoughts of water relate to the place I grew up, Saskatchewan. A place known more for its flat dry landscape than water. But my limited experience with water there was memorable. It was one or two weeks at summer camp at the lake, every year, gaining independence and developing friendships. And then water became a feature of my career. For several years I had responsibilities for matters concerning the Great lakes, identifying areas of environmental concern, developing remedial action plans, co-charing the Great Lakes water quality board. It was all about thinking about the linkage between science and effective public policy. How would we protect the quality and quantity of these great bodies of water for future generations? And later with the United Nations, I came to understand and see first hand that water was really a geopolitical issue, on the agendas of countries around this globe, as we all consider the impact of climate change.
But lately, in this position, I have been thinking about Ontarians. Who are we? And that led me to question - what was there that was really iconic about this province? And I immediately thought of the Great Lakes. And so, to test my hypothesis we curated an art exhibition in the Lieutenant Governor’s suite at Queens Park. It’s called identity: art inspired by the Great lakes. It includes paintings, sculptures, photography and social media. And the artists explain how they actually drew their inspiration from the lakes.
Because these lakes are great, and every time someone visits, they eagerly stop by to tell me their Great Lakes story. For some, it goes back to the indigenous reminder that these waters are the lifeblood of mother earth. For others, it's really all about history. A reminder of recent times perhaps spent with grandparents up at the cottage. Or stories of the much more distant past, how this province developed economically and socially over the years, all with the lakes and rivers at their core. The lakes are a living laboratory for some. We learn biology, chemistry but also environmental stewardship. For others it is a story of sheer beauty and majesty, it's a story told of how we rejuvenate away from the business of life. And for many of us, and certainly for me, the lakes are precious because they provide motivation to walk much more lightly on this earth. They are indeed, an inspiration.