Newly Appointed Canadian Commissioners Chiblow and Phare Working Toward Greater Indigenous Collaboration

Diana Moczula
chiblow phare commissioners ijc

Canadian Commissioners Dr. Susan Chiblow and Merrell-Ann Phare share a common background and goal: extensive work with Indigenous Peoples and personal commitments to continued collaboration and engagement.

Chiblow was recently appointed as the International Joint Commission’s second Indigenous Commissioner. Phare was appointed to a second term.

Chiblow is Anishinaabe born and raised in Garden River First Nation, Ontario. She has worked extensively with Indigenous Peoples over her career. 

Her background includes biology, environmental management and environmental science with a focus on N’bi Kendaaswin (Water Knowledge). She was environment coordinator for the Chiefs of Ontario, where she was instrumental in developing the Water Declaration of the Anishinaabek, Mushkegowuk and Onkwehonwe. 

Chiblow is also an assistant professor at the University of Guelph in the School of Environmental Sciences, specifically the Bachelor of Indigenous Environmental Science and Practice (BIESP).  Her program of research is driven by and for Indigenous Peoples.

“I grew up along the St. Marys River, participating in many different harvesting activities, providing me with the foundations of Anishinaabek law,” Chiblow said. 

“I have been afforded the opportunity to work with and for Indigenous Peoples for the last several years learning from knowledge keepers, participating in ceremonies and collaborating with Indigenous Peoples internationally. These gifts are the driving force of who I am.”

Commissioner Phare has a background in environmental economics and two degrees focused on Aboriginal water rights and international trade. Throughout her career, she has worked with Indigenous organizations on issues related to land, water, rights, governance and the environment. As the founding executive director of the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources, along with 10 First Nation Chiefs, Phare also has helped initiate capacity building projects for First Nations across Canada.

“Working and collaborating with Indigenous Peoples has been an integral part of my career and I look forward to continuing this meaningful work,” Phare said. 

Although the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 which created the IJC is silent on the role of Indigenous Peoples, the IJC recognizes the importance of working with Indigenous Peoples and organizations, welcoming participation on IJC boards and ensuring that Indigenous voices are heard in IJC studies and work. 

Commissioners Chiblow and Phare emphasized they are committed to encouraging the IJC, its boards and committees to continue to work with Indigenous Peoples to achieve their mandates regarding transboundary waters. 

Chiblow emphasizes: “As an Anishinaabe women, I understand my role and responsibility to the waters. I understand we have come to a point in time where all knowledge systems need to come together to care for and protect the waters for future generations. I understand the unique connection I have as a woman to the waters and intend on being the voice of the waters and ensuring that Indigenous Peoples knowledge systems are included in water decision making.”

Phare adds: “Inviting Indigenous Peoples to collaborate with the IJC cannot be accomplished as a stand-alone and time-limited initiative. Building relationships and creating an environment within the IJC that establishes trust and supports collaboration requires a collective and ongoing commitment and the IJC is working toward greater collaboration with Indigenous Peoples.”


Diana Moczula

Diana Moczula is a junior policy analyst at the IJC’s Canadian Section office in Ottawa, Ontario.