Kenora Save-ELA Appeal

The letter below was part of an effort by the ELA support group in Kenora. Though the issue has been settled through round-the-world efforts – and absolutely no thanks to the Harper government – this is still an enlightening read. (Noted December, 2014)

This is an elegant explanation of the ELA and why it is important. I hope that you will take the time to read it and be inspired enough to both send a letter of support and send it out to others. – Sallie J Hunt, Northwest Community Legal Clinic, Kenora

From: Dave Schwartz
Sent: September-17-12 10:56 PM
Subject: ELA SUPPORT GROUP (Kenora) letter campaign

Dear Friends,

You are receiving this letter as a member of the email list for the ELA support group in Kenora. My hope is that you will initiate your own letter writing campaign. If you tell ten friends and they each tell ten friends? The letter needs no further explanation. Please pass along your own version to friends far and wide. You can forward this if you like but your own spin will help sell your personal contacts.

In case you don’t know me, I’m an environmental activist and science educator in Kenora, Ontario, and supporter of the ELA. I’m writing to inform you about an issue which concerns all Canadians. I am also asking for your help in persuading the Harper government to reverse an unwise, penny-wise and pound-foolish, short-sighted decision that will have disastrous consequences for generations to come.

Please join the campaign to save the Experimental Lakes Area research facility (ELA). I’ve long been interested in ELA and have visited the facility a number of times over the past forty years. I have also spoken at length with scientists who work there, and read extensively about the research conducted at the ELA. I truly believe that the freshwater ecosystems research taking place there is of vital importance to Canada and the world and cannot be conducted at any other facility.

What’s Happening

The Harper government has announced that effective March of 2013, the ELA will be closed. The officially stated reason is that the research at the facility does not fit the mandate of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. There has been a groundswell of opposition to the impending closure by concerned citizens and scientists from around the world that have, as yet, not persuaded the Conservatives to reverse their decision, although they now claim, after considerable pressure, to recognize the value of the work at ELA and to be looking for another organization to fund and operate the facility. Informed critics are doubtful that another organization will be found that can effectively take on the responsibility, especially considering the short time frame. They also feel that the federal government is the most appropriate operator.

The facility is being prepared for closure in March and some staff are already looking for employment elsewhere.

Why it should concern you

The ELA has been referred to as an ecological supercollider. It is the only research facility in the world which conducts experiments on whole freshwater lake ecosystems. It has been much more effective than conventional laboratories in identifying threats to our lakes and rivers and in identifying methods of dealing with those threats. It is world renowned for the discoveries made there. A considerable number of those discoveries have helped changed the world for the better, including reduction of algal blooms through reduction of phosphates in cleaning products and reduction of lake acidification through exhaust gas scrubbing.

Saving the ELA would a represent at least a partial reversal in the Harper Government’s trend towards denigration of science and other forms of studied opinion. Although they profess to value science, they appear to support mainly scientific activity that would clear the way for industry. The closure of ELA is clearly politically, not scientifically, motivated.

You can learn more about the ELA closure on either of the following websites:
[ no longer available]

How can you help?

-Talk to or write your member of parliament and/or Keith Ashford, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and/or Prime Minister Stephen Harper and/or Peter Kent, Minister of the Environment expressing your concern and recommending that the ELA be kept in operation by the DFO. At the end of this email is a sample letter that would require only a few minutes to customize for your personal use.

-Learn more about the ELA and get your friends and acquaintances involved in the fight to save the ELA. You could use your email contacts list to create a snowball effect.
Hint: Rework this email into a personalized version. Forwarded emails from an unknown party (me) are far less likely to motivate people than an email that comes from a familiar person (you).

-Circulate a petition
[ no longer available]

Additional information

The ELA is very cost effective. The Federal Government’s cost to keep the facility running is about $2 million dollars, about 6 cents for each of us. By contrast, discoveries made at ELA discoveries have saved us billions in environment damage avoided.

Still more information and opinion at:

There has already been a great deal of protest by people and city governments in the Kenora riding because, with the ELA located here, we tend to be more aware of the important work at ELA. Protest from outside the Kenora area to MPs from other ridings, particularly Conservative ones, would be especially helpful.

Your help in bringing about a reversal of this short-sighted decision to close the ELA will be greatly appreciated by your children, your grandchildren, and more generations to come. It is they, more than we, who will benefit from knowledge about how to better protect our aquatic ecosystems, riparian zones, and the land beyond. The research is conducted near Kenora but it benefits all of Canada and the rest of the world.


Dave Schwartz


Sample letter:

Insert Date
your address

Insert address for Minister Keith Ashfield, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, or Minister Peter Kent, Minister of the Environment, or your MP

Dear (Minister Ashfield and/or your MP’s name and/ or Minister Kent)

I am writing to you today to voice my disappointment and dismay to the announced closure of the internationally renowned research facility at the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) in northwestern Ontario.

For close to 50 years, the Experimental Lakes Area has offered the world the results of ground breaking research into acid rain, climate change, fish management and essentially all the ways humans impact our freshwater ecosystems.To discontinue the important work being done related to freshwater, whole lake ecosystems including their management and protection is a short-sighted move which not only impacts the future sustainability of lakes in our region, but freshwater systems around the world.

The suggestion that the research would be better served by universities, who are facing their own budget cuts is just plain wrong. A fundamental strength of the ELA is in the dedicated, on-site research team of Department of Fisheries and Oceans employees committed to ongoing and focused freshwater research. Having another institution operate the ELA would also add layers of coordination and administration ? something we all know will not serve us well. Moreover,one of the main functions of the ELA is to provide for informed policy-making with respect to our waterways, largely a federal matter. Putting another agency in charge makes no sense.

I strongly urge you, as a representative of Canadian citizens who are proud of our leadership role in environmental research, to reconsider and reverse the decision to close the Experimental Lakes Area research station.

I am sure that you, like Kenora’s member of Parliament, Greg Rickford, recognize the importance of the ELA. By far, the best way to have that important work continue is for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to continue to operate the facility as it has so successfully done for almost half a century. If the federal government insists on finding another operator, against the studied advice of the best scientific minds in the country, they should at least agree to fund the ELA until another operator is found. An operator that can guarantee its operation into the foreseeable future. Why announce closure of such a successful and important program when no solution for its continued operation has been found and threats to our aquatic ecosystems continue to emerge?

It is imperative to future generations needing freshwater both in Canada and internationally that resources remain in place so this important and ground breaking work can continue.


Your name

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