The Canada Water Agency must play a key role in implementing the human right to water and sanitation at the federal level, strengthen freshwater protection legislation, increase collaboration and coordination across federal agencies and jurisdictions, and exemplify the process of co-development of policies with Indigenous Peoples.
You can use the talking points below as suggestions to guide your submission. We encourage you to include local and regional water issues, and solutions to the issues the Canada Water Agency could address.
The online consultation platform includes a list of five questions to encourage discussions. You can base your submission on these five questions, or structure it as you prefer. We recommend sending a copy of your submission to your local MPs and keeping track of their response.
These are the five questions:
- What are the most pressing freshwater challenges nationally, and in your region in Canada?
- What in your opinion are the essential science, data, policy and program gaps that need to be filled in relation to these freshwater challenges?
- What role would you see a Canada Water Agency playing in filling these gaps?
- How should a Canada Water Agency work to enhance federal-provincial-territorial coordination and cooperation?
- What role should a Canada Water Agency have in working with Indigenous Peoples on freshwater management issues?
The Canada Water Agency should implement the human right to water and sanitation
What is happening now:
- Canada recognized the human right to water and sanitation in 2012 but has no legislation to implement these rights.
- More than 100 First Nations communities still live without access to safe, clean drinking water and adequate sanitation.
- Municipalities across the country struggle with antiquated water and wastewater infrastructure, chronic underfunding, and varied drinking water standards. As a result, many cities experience dangerously high levels of lead in their drinking water.
The changes we need
- The federal government must address the drinking water crisis in First Nations, provide adequate resources to tackle the larger infrastructure deficits in these communities, and support First Nations-led effort to take control of their water infrastructure and services.
- The Canada Water Agency should harmonize the patchwork of drinking water standards across provinces, enforce the new standards, and guarantee funding for communities to repair and upgrade their water and wastewater infrastructure.
- Federal investments in water infrastructure, especially public funding like the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund, must be renewed and expanded, while false solutions that promote privatization and P3s like the Canada Infrastructure Bank must be rejected.
The Canada Water Agency should strengthen freshwater protection regulations
What is happening now:
- The Liberal government only partially restored protections for waterways that were gutted under Harper through the new Canada Navigable Waters Act and Impact Assessment Act. They did not remove exemptions for major fossil fuel projects like pipelines and power lines.
- Federal water policies fail to require free, prior and informed consent as outlined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
- Schedule 2 of the Fisheries Act still allows industry to turn freshwater bodies into tailings impoundment areas (tailings ponds).
- Federal water policies are extremely outdated and fragmented. Over 20 federal departments, as well as the provinces, regulate various aspects of water, including water quality, quantity, access, withdrawals, etc.
- The over-extraction and commodification of groundwater and the growing demand for water from population growth and climate change further demand federal leadership to ensure water is better managed for future use.
- Provinces still manage water as a commodity, with limited consideration for community use, impacts on the watershed, or free, prior and informed consent from Indigenous Peoples.
The changes we need:
- The federal government must close the loopholes in the Canada Navigable Waters Act, Impact Assessment Act and Fisheries Act and fully protect every waterway.
- The federal government must respect Indigenous water rights, titles, governance structure and law, and co-develop water policies with Indigenous nations as equal partners.
- The Canada Water Agency must declare all surface and groundwater a public trust and prioritize community use over water taking for profit.
- Water governance should be approached from an integrated view of lakes, streams, aquifers and rivers as part of watersheds or river basins. Policy must be developed collaboratively across jurisdictions accordingly.
- The Canada Water Agency must invest in research on groundwater in Canada and establish freshwater quality and quantity monitoring frameworks.
The Canada Water Agency must protect water from major energy projects
What is happening now:
- Fracking, mega-hydro dams, tar sands extractions, coal mines and other energy projects can be both water-intensive and detrimental to the local watershed, as well as the downstream environment and communities.
- Pipelines like Trans Mountain and Coastal GasLink threaten thousands of waterways and disrupt the way of life of Indigenous communities along their paths.
- Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a highly destructive and toxic way to produce natural gas. Fracking projects have contaminated local groundwater sources, devastating the environment in their wake.
- Muskrat Falls in Labrador is expected to come online by 2021 despite major local opposition by the predominantly Indigenous population. The community relies on the Churchill River and downstream lakes like Lake Melville for a traditional food source, which are now unsafe due to the bioaccumulation of mercury. Several other mega-hydro projects have been proposed or established in Quebec and Manitoba. Hydro dams also produce a significant amount of methane, a 25-times more potent contributor to the climate crisis than CO2.
- Oil and gas and other polluting industries aggressively lobby all levels of government to weaken environmental monitoring regulations.
- To meet its Paris Agreement target, Canada must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent by 2030. This is impossible should the expansion and continued operation of these fossil fuel projects that also put water at risk continue.
The change we need:
- As the Canada Water Agency modernizes the approach and policies around water, it must incorporate climate change impacts into its review and strengthen regulations to safeguard water from these projects.
- Governments and industry must obtain the free, prior and informed consent from Indigenous Peoples before any major projects can proceed.
- Building on the work of Council of Canadians chapters to achieve a provincial moratorium on fracking in several provinces, the Canada Water Agency must put forward federal legislation to reject fracking projects.
- Mega-hydro is not a solution to the climate crisis and the Canada Water Agency must call for an end to these projects at a federal level.