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NEWS: C-383 goes to second reading in June

The Globe and Mail reports, “The Conservative government is throwing its support behind a private member’s bill that would bolster the protection of Canadian waters that flow across an international boundary from bulk removal.

Bill C-383, which was introduced by Conservative MP Larry Miller in December, has the support of the government, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Wednesday morning. …The bill is expected to be debated at second reading next month.”

According to the article:
– “It would give (Canadian waters that flow across the border) the same federal protection as boundary waters, including lakes, which are shared between countries.”
– “It would mean increasing fines for violations and adding minimum penalties, according to Foreign Affairs. When he introduced the bill, Mr. Miller said it would introduce new penalties including fines of up to $6-million for corporate violations.”
– “The bill would move exceptions and definitions from regulations to the act to, in part, give more parliamentary oversight.”
– “It would also amend the International River Improvements Act to prevent projects, like dams or canals, that would be used to transfer water across the border.”

“Asked if the bill would stop the United States from exporting water from the Great Lakes, Mr. Baird said shared water resources between the U.S. and Canada are managed by the International Joint Commission. ‘We can’t force the United States to do in Canadian law to do anything within their own waters,’ he said, adding the commission has been successful.”

“Mr. Baird said he expects support for the bill to extend outside the Conservative caucus. ‘I am still reaching out to some of the individuals but I have spoke to members in the Liberal Party who have indicated that there’s support for the bill,’ he said. Mr. Baird said he is still talking to the NDP and noted that Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has also indicated her support.”

In mid-December 2011 we noted in a campaign blog:

Conservative MP Larry Miller has introduced C-383, An Act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act and the International River Improvements Act. While it passed first reading yesterday, second reading debate is expected in February.

In two news stores, Miller has suggested there will be near unanimous support for C-383 in the House of Commons, and

In November 2008, the Harper government’s Speech from the Throne included, “To ensure protection of our vital resources, our Government will bring in legislation to ban all bulk water transfers or exports from Canadian freshwater basins.”

In May 2010, almost two years later, the Canwest News Service reported that the Harper government had introduced Bill C-26, “The (Transboundary Waters Protection Act) bill (which) would ‘plug the last remaining gap’ in a ban against bulk water removal that is in place for the Great Lakes and other water that straddles the Canada-U.S. border and is covered by provincial law. (In 2002, the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act was amended to prohibit bulk water removals from the basins of boundary waters.) The bill provides new powers of inspection and enforcement and fines of up to $6 million for corporate violations.”
C-383 appears to be C-26 re-numbered.

While the federal government is responsible for boundary waters, such as the Great Lakes, provinces control resources (including water bodies) solely within their borders. In 1999, the federal and provincial governments entered into a voluntary agreement banning bulk water exports. Council of Canadians national chairperson Maude Barlow has stated, “A voluntary accord is just that — voluntary — and does not bind any province in any meaningful way to protect its water resources now or in the future. Only the federal government has the jurisdiction to impose a meaningful national ban on water exports and only the federal government can deal with the trade threat it has unleashed on the provinces.” Any province that approves bulk water exports, would automatically put pressure on every other province because the NAFTA Chapter 11 provision could be used by a company denied permission to export water from any other province. Back in May 2010, water campaigner Meera Karunananthan said, “We don’t see Bill C-26 as a ban on bulk water exports. It does not appear to cover waters that are not boundary or transboundary waters.”

Barlow also noted at the time, “This legislation seems to narrow the definition of bulk removals to exclude water in manufactured products such as beverages. It appears the legislation continues a provision that allows for up to 50,000 litres of water a day to be exported in packaged form, such as bottled water.”

The Council of Canadians believes that Canada needs a comprehensive national water policy that bans all bulk water exports, excludes water from NAFTA and recognizes water as a public trust.

To read C-383, go to