The project, a collaboration between Environmental Defence Canada and documentary photographer Colin Boyd Shafer, demonstrates the urgent need to protect the lake.
Toronto, Ont. – A new documentary photography exhibition, launched today online, showcases Canadians’ deep personal connections with Lake Erie and highlights why the lake needs to be protected. North of Long Tail, a collaboration between Environmental Defence and documentary photographer Colin Boyd Shafer, contains 20 stories from the north side of the lake — from Essex County all the way to Niagara Region.
“Lake Erie is more than just a body of water. So many people rely on the lake for so many things — to support their business, for drinking water, recreation, or just a place to unwind and relax,” said Keith Brooks, Programs Director with Environmental Defence. “When Lake Erie’s health is impacted, so are the lives of the people who live near and love the lake. We wanted to show that through this project.”
The title of the project was inspired by the translation of the lake’s name. “Erie” is derived from the Iroquoian word erielhonan that means “long tail”, which can also describe the lake’s unique shape. However, what is really remarkable about Lake Erie are the people who are closely connected with it and know how important it is to their communities.
For the project, Shafer (whose previous projects Cosmopolis Toronto and INTERLOVE received national and international media attention) travelled along the lake’s north shore, meeting with people from all different backgrounds and walks of life. They all had one thing in common: the lake is so essential to them. Some stories include a Pelee Island theatre owner, a firefighter from Port Stanley, a brewery owner in Port Colborne, a commercial fisherman in Wheatley, and an associate professor from the University of Waterloo.
“What I heard over and over again from people was how essential Lake Erie was to their community and local history, and how it was a lifeline for them,” said Shafer, who is from Kitchener, Ont. “Having the chance to meet these people and capture these stories has had a profound impact on me. It has given me a different perspective and relationship with Lake Erie.”
In recent years, Lake Erie and its shoreline have been impacted by climate change, erosion, plastic pollution, and flooding. One of the biggest threats to the lake are annual massive — and sometimes toxic — algae blooms, which can kill fish and make the water unsafe for drinking or swimming. In 2018, the federal and Ontario governments finalized their action plan to help restore the health of the lake. But they have been slow to move to implement it.
“We hope that through this project, our leaders will recognize that Lake Erie, and the people who are closely connected to it, can’t afford any further delays,” said Brooks. “Action is needed to save Lake Erie now.”
To read all the stories and see the images from the project, please visit NorthofLongTail.ca.
About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian environmental advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Jen Mayville, Environmental Defence, jmayville@