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The Council calls on Trudeau government to fix C-69, table new water protection legislation, appoint a water minister

Council of Canadians water campaigner Emma Lui at the Fraser River in British Columbia. The Trudeau government-approved Kinder Morgan pipeline would cross the lower portions of the Fraser River, North America’s primary salmon-producing fish habitat.

The Council of Canadians calls on the Trudeau government to dramatically strengthen environmental reviews and water protection measures in its recently tabled Bill C-69 that would govern the reviews of proposed tar sands pipelines, mines, hydroelectric dams and transmission lines.

The Globe and Mail reports, “Scientists and advocates worry there is no clear guidance under which projects would be turned down because of environmental impacts. Instead, the minister of environment or, in some cases, the federal cabinet, will have discretion to declare a project to be in the national interest and approve it, regardless of the findings of the impact assessment review.”

The article adds that the Liberals have been criticized for approving the 890,000 barrel per day Kinder Morgan pipeline and that “measures announced to date by federal and provincial governments are not sufficient to meet Ottawa’s commitment to reduce emissions by 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, and Ottawa has committed under the United Nations Paris accord to adopt an even tougher target.”

The article notes that Justina Ray of the Wildlife Conservation Society Canada says “there is no requirement for Ottawa to conduct regional or strategic assessment, and no clear indication how such studies, when completed, would guide project proposals.” Megan Leslie of the World Wildlife Fund Canada says “the factors to be weighed by the minister all just seem to be factors, I don’t see anything in here that indicates a ‘no go,’ that a project won’t happen because these are environmental considerations beyond the pale.”

In this campaign blog, Council of Canadians water campaigner Emma Lui highlights, “The amendments to the Canadian Navigable Waters Act fall short of what Indigenous nations, environmental groups, residents and other organizations called for during the Standing Committee review which included restoring protections on all lakes and rivers and obtaining free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous nations. A closer look at the bill shows pipelines and power lines are still exempt from the act and raises questions about whether the act protects all waterways from dam projects.”

She also notes Bill C-69:

1- does not provide the modern safeguard of protecting water beyond human use.

2- maintains a schedule of navigable waters, that it’s unclear which waterways are on that schedule, and that waterways can even be removed from that schedule.

3- gives the minister the power to approve an activity (including an unauthorized dam to be used for fracking) after it has begun.

4- puts the onus on the individual to protect a waterway not listed in the schedule in the dispute resolution process.

5- mentions a public registry without specifying what information would be required for it thus undermining public participation in the process.

6- does not include modern safeguards as promised by the Liberals during the October 2015 federal election.

The Council of Canadians calls on the Trudeau government to:

1- correct the concerns Lui raises (by respecting free, prior and informed consent; protecting all waterways; strengthening the public participation process, and more).

2- table new water protection legislation that enshrines the United Nations recognized ‘obligation to protect’ drinking water from being polluted.

3- protect the Fraser River and 1,300 waterways by rejecting the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

4- protect the oceans and the endangered right whale by banning offshore oil and gas drilling.

5- rather than legislating a 2-year review deadline for oil and gas project approvals, commit to the deadline of a 100 per cent clean energy economy by 2050.

6- appoint a water minister who would have the key role of advocating for the protection of water in cabinet decision-making on major resource projects.