West Hawk Lake is up and running as a biosecurity dividing point between Eastern and Western Canada.
It has taken 10 years to implement the project, formally known as the West Hawk Lake Zoning Initiative, said Curtis Littlejohn, a director of Ontario Pork and the Canadian Pork Council.
The Manitoba community near the Ontario border is best known as a cottage and recreation area. It was chosen because it’s a “choke point” for highway and rail connections between the East and West, and the surrounding Canadian Shield is a buffer between the Prairies and Ontario’s farm country.
It’s believed that closing the choke point would prevent a foreign animal disease outbreak in one half of the country from spreading to the other. That would, in theory, allow the disease-free region to continue exporting even if the border and ports were closed to animal exports in the other region – or at least allow for a quicker reopening for half of the country.
The initiative was hailed as a good idea for the first two years and then there were roadblocks and resistance from international trading partners, said Littlejohn.
Now there is general acceptance, but it’s far from clear what the practical outcome will be, he said.
The initiative is intended to reassure all of Canada’s export customers, but the United States is clearly the top concern. It has embarked on a two-year exercise to come up with rules to govern trade on the basis of the West Hawk Lake division.
“As for the others, we’ll just have to wait and see what they do if we have an outbreak,” Littlejohn said.