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Bill C-69 falls short of Justin Trudeau’s promises on water protection and Indigenous rights made in 2013 and 2015

Council of Canadians honorary chairperson Maude Barlow and then-CEP president Dave Coles met with Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence inside her tipi on Victoria Island on the Ottawa River on December 23, 2012.

Five years ago (on January 24, 2013), Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence ended her 44-day hunger strike – that began in part due to the Harper government’s gutting of the Navigable Waters Protection Act – following the (then-opposition) Liberal Party of Canada Parliamentary Caucus agreeing to a 13-point plan.

Two of the key promises made in that plan were “the full implementation of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” and “that all federal legislation has the free, prior and informed consent of First Nations where inherent and Treaty rights are affected or impacted”.

One month after the hunger-strike ended (on February 22, 2013), the Attawapiskat First Nation and the International Indian Treaty Council then sought the support of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination citing C-45 “changed the Navigable Waters Protection Act to a new format called the Navigation Protection Act, removing protection for 99.9 per cent of lakes and rivers in Canada.”

The Council of Canadians first expressed our solidarity with Chief Spence’s hunger-strike on December 10, 2012, the evening before it began, Maude Barlow met with Chief Spence on December 23, 2012, and then returned her Diamond Jubilee medal to Rideau Hall to press the Governor-General to meet with the Prime Minister and First Nations leaders on the issues being raised by Chief Spence.

The Idle No More movement began around the same time – November 2012 – and initially emphasized their opposition to the Harper government’s C-45 omnibus legislation that gutted waterways of protection and severely diminished the federal review process for damaging pipeline projects such as tar sands pipelines.

With the Liberal government’s recent tabling of Bill C-69, The Council of Canadians argues that this legislation falls short of its election promises to “make environmental assessments credible again” and “restore lost protections and incorporate more modern safeguards” in the Navigable Waters Protection Act.

We would also suggest it falls short of what Justin Trudeau and the Liberal caucus promised Chief Spence in January 2013.

We are now calling on the Liberal government to introduce new water protection legislation that protects all lakes, rivers and drinking water sources, rejects the Kinder Morgan pipeline, respects UNDRIP and FPIC, and enshrines the UN-recognized obligation to protect drinking water from being polluted.

To sign our petition, please click here.