Council of Canadians water campaigner Emma Lui met with the manager of the Navigation Protection Act review, her director and the Director General of Environmental Programs at Transport Canada yesterday.
Lui met with them to raise our concerns about the Harper government’s gutting of the Navigable Waters Protection Act – renamed by the Conservatives to the Navigation Protection Act – and the promise made by the Liberals during the October 2015 federal election to “review these changes, restore lost protections, and incorporate more modern safeguards.”
In 2012, the Harper government decimated the Navigable Waters Protection Act by removing federal oversight on pipelines and power lines from it and by reducing its scope to just 159 lakes and rivers, leaving more than 31,000 lakes and 2.25 million rivers without federal scrutiny.
The senior civil servants echoed recent comments by Transport Minister Marc Garneau and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Kate Young. Garneau has stated, “Some of the changes that were made we may end up saying they’re reasonable, but some of them we definitely will change.” Young has commented the focus of a review of the Act will be on the 159 listed waterways and whether or not more of the 31,000 lakes and 2.25 million rivers without federal oversight “should be added”.
Lui also highlighted our concerns with the review process to date. On October 4, the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities began inviting written comments on its review of the Navigation Protection Act. The deadline to submit written comments noted at that time was October 26.” Lui wrote in a campaign blog that three weeks is a very short timeline and that the deadline should be extended to at least 60 days. The deadline for comments has now been extended to November 9. To submit your comments to the Committee, please click here.
We would encourage you to highlight these demands in your submission:
Protections must be put back on all lakes, rivers and waterways, so that every lake and every river is protected.
Reinstate and strengthen federal scrutiny of large pipelines and power lines.
Implement strict safeguards for waterways within the framework of the United Nations-recognized human right to water.
Include a clause a clause that says spills or discharges of harmful substances will be assessed for their impact on navigable waters.
Incorporate the obligation to obtain free, prior and informed consent.
Develop provisions that establish a community’s right to say “no” to projects that threaten waterways.
Lui raised with the bureaucrats the importance of free, prior and informed consent – enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was endorsed by the Trudeau government this past May – but they only said the department was thinking about it. Similarly, they were non-committal on the idea that the Act should be broadened to include the reality that pollution – such as a pipeline spill into a river – impedes navigation and enjoyment of that waterway. They suggested instead that notion would be better placed in other legislation.
The Council of Canadians has just released this 4-minute video calling for water protections to be restored and enhanced. We will also be releasing a report on the Navigable Waters Protection Act that examines case studies like the Energy East pipeline, the Ajax Mine, the Keeyask Dam and the Bipole Transmission Line.
We have also highlighted in this blog that the Trudeau government issued a Navigation Protection Act permit this summer that allowed construction on the Site C dam on the Peace River in Treaty 8 territory in north-eastern British Columbia to proceed despite the lack of free, prior and informed consent.
Lui has noted, “We know that Big Oil and the pipeline industry drove the changes that Harper made and we know they are lobbying the Trudeau government to keep water protections scaled back.” Because of that corporate pressure, it’s all the more important that the public summit their comments to the Committee by the November 9 deadline. To do so, please click here.
The federal Transport minister will study the report produced by the Committee and decide whether to proceed with whatever recommendations are proposed at some point next year, perhaps by June.