OTD: Trudeau, Nixon meet before signing Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement

On today’s date in 1972, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and U.S. President Richard Nixon began a two-day visit in Ottawa, where they would sign the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

The agreement was inspired by recommendations from the International Joint Commission (IJC), which reported excessive levels of phosphorus in the Great Lakes before concluding pollution was happening on both sides of the border.

According to the IJC, recommendations to improve water quality in the Great Lakes basin focused on:

  • establishing new water-quality objectives;
  • starting programs to control the lakes’ phosphorus intake; and
  • forming new organizations to oversee the remediation.

Lake Michigan was also featured in the Mint’s 2014 Great Lakes series.


On April 12, at a dinner event before the two-day visit with Trudeau, Nixon remarked during a toast: “Tonight we’ll dispense with the formalities. I’d like to toast the future prime minister of Canada – to Justin Pierre Trudeau.”

The younger Trudeau, who was born Christmas Day 1971, assumed the office of the prime minister on Nov. 4, 2015. He’s currently serving his second term.

Despite Nixon’s kind words, he was apparently overflowing with “sulphurous loathing” for the elder Trudeau as well as Canada, according to a story published by The Globe and Mail in 2002.

Each of the ‘Great Lakes’ coins (Lake Huron shown) feature a bathymetric map on the reverse.

“That trip we needed like a hole in the head,” Nixon apparently told U.S. National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger on April 15, 1972, following his return to the U.S.

Three days later, Nixon would again voice his displeasure, this time to his chief of staff H. R. Haldeman, to whom he said: “That Trudeau, he’s a clever son of a … You see, he’s on that side of that Canada liberation movement. He’s trying to play both sides so he has them out there and he sort of tries to give us a little colour guard.”

The coins (Lake Erie shown) also feature raised elements and a compass.


In 2014, the Royal Canadian Mint featured the Great Lakes – the world’s largest system of fresh surface water – on a series of five $20 silver coins.

The coins, which depict each Great Lake (Superior, Huron, Michigan, Erie and Ontario), are crafted with raised land against a translucent, enamel-filled lake. Each coin has a Proof finish and a mintage of 10,000 pieces.

The coins’ reverse sides feature a bathymetric map of the respective lake, which is filled with translucent blue enamel. Surrounding the lake, the raised elements represent the land and the points of a compass complete the design.

Lake Superior is the largest of the five Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes hold about 20 per cent of the world’s fresh-water supply. They were carved out and filled by pre-historic glaciers and cover more than 243,000 square kilometres. It is one of Canada’s most biologically diverse regions and home to more than 150 fish and 50 plant species, some of which are not found anywhere else on earth.

“The Mint is proud to celebrate Canada’s people, places and passions, including the Great Lakes, which have shaped our collective identity in so many ways,” said Ian Bennett, then Mint president and CEO, upon the coins’ release in 2014.

“Lake Superior has captured the imagination of generations and this coin will continue to foster the amazement and delight of Canadians and collectors alike for years to come.”

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