This morning, Lynn Chapman, member of the Peace Valley Environmental Association, and I met with Jonathon Wilkinson, North Vancouver Member of Parliament and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
(Above photo by D. Lynn Chapman of water campaigner Emma Lui delivering 10,000 petition signatures to North Vancouver MP Jonathon Wilkinson)
We delivered nearly 10, 000 petition signatures calling on the Trudeau government to restore and enhance the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) so that all lakes, rivers and waterways are fully protected; incorporate the obligation to obtain free, prior and informed consent as called for by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into the NWPA; and implement strict safeguards for waterways to uphold the United Nations-recognized human right to water and sanitation among other things.
We also delivered a letter that raised grave concerns about Site C including the impacts on First Nations treaty rights, the destruction of farmland and food security and the estimated $9 billion cost of Site C, much of which B.C. taxpayers will be on the hook for.
(Photo above: D. Lynn Chapman with #EveryLakeEveryRiver banner outside MP Jonathon Wilkinson's constituency office)
As a resident of North Vancouver, I am deeply concerned that the Capilano and Seymour Rivers, the sources of drinking water to North Vancouver and Metro Vancouver, remain unprotected under the current Navigation Protection Act. The Capilano and Seymour Rivers as well as Coquitlam Lake provide drinking water to over 2.4 million residents of Metro Vancouver. But these waterways lost protections, along with 99% of lakes and rivers in Canada, when the former Harper government gutted this and other freshwater protections. The Trudeau government recently passed bills to put protections back on the Nottawasaga River after several area municipalities, as well as the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority and Simcoe County, had called for the river to added to the list of protected waterways. In October, the Nass River (K'alii Aksim Lisims) in northern British Columbia was also added to the list of protected water ways in the Act at the request of the Nisga’a Lisims government. We asked MP Jonathon Wilkinson to specifically put protections back on the Capilano and Seymour Rivers to protect the drinking water of North Vancouver.
Projects like the Kinder Morgan pipeline, the Site C mega-dam, Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline and TransCanada’s NOVA Gas pipeline, which will transport fracked gas from northeastern B.C. to Alberta, are being approved by the Trudeau government under severely weakened water protections. It was disappointing to hear MP Wilkinson defend the approval of the Site C dam and the approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline (despite the lack of information like a hydrogeology study on the drinking water of Coldwater Indian Band, or C’eletkwmx, as this was condition 39 in the approval decision).
We also raised the importance of creating green, sustainable jobs. In 2012, Mountain Equipment Co-op CEO David Labistour presented a list of 40 recreationally important waterways – half of which are Heritage Rivers – that are no longer protected after the former Harper government removed protections from 99% of lakes and rivers under the NWPA. Labistour reminded the Senate committee studying the bill then that the outdoor recreation industry creates at least 6 million jobs in Canada.
The federal government has been reviewing freshwater and environmental legislation like the Navigation Protection Act, the Fisheries Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act since last fall. The Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans just released its recommendations to the federal government on Monday. The Standing Committee on Transport and the CEAA review panel are expected to release their recommendations on the NPA and the CEAA respectively at the end of March.
However, industry groups and energy corporations such as oil giant Shell Canada, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Associate, the Canadian Electricity Association and uranium producer Cameco Corporation are registered to lobby the federal government and want protections kept off lakes and rivers under the NPA. The changes Harper made to several water and environmental laws were made after the Energy Framework Initiative, which is made up of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, the Canadian Petroleum Products Institute (now the Canadian Fuels Association) and the Canadian Gas Association, pushed for the changes. Donald Trump’s slashing of freshwater protections in the US could also have impacts on protections in Canada.
For these reasons, the coming weeks and months will be a critical time for residents to take action to protect water in their communities. It is a great time for residents to schedule a meeting with their Members of Parliament to make sure that freshwater protections are not only restored but also strengthened to truly protect the human right to water and to ensure drinking water for generations to come.
To learn more about how you can help protect #EveryLakeEveryRiver, click here.