5 reasons why the Trudeau government should protect #EveryLakeEveryRiver

The Trudeau government is poised to carry on the Harper government’s harmful legacy on water and leave 99% of lakes and rivers unprotected in Canada.

In March, the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities released a report recommending that the Trudeau government leave the 99% of lakes and rivers unprotected under the Navigation Protection Act (NPA), formerly the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA). The Trudeau government has until July 21, 2017 to respond but it could issue a response any day, which means we have limited time to act.

It us up to all of us to send a strong message to Members of Parliament that the Standing Committee recommendations are not enough to safeguard water and that all lakes and rivers must be protected. We encourage you to email, call or set up a meeting with your Member of Parliament to urge that the Trudeau government go well beyond the Standing Committee’s recommendations by restoring and enhancing the NWPA. Be sure to take a photo if you meet your Member of Parliament and send it to webmaster@canadians.org.

Here are five key points to make when you talk to your Member of Parliament, friends, family or neighbours or local media about the importance of protecting every lake and every river.

1. 99% of lakes and rivers are unprotected

Right now 99% of lakes and rivers are unprotected under the NPA. This means that dam, mining, logging, fish farm and other projects on unprotected waterways are moving forward without assessment of how they affect lakes, rivers and people’s right to navigate waterways. Talk to your Member of Parliament about how important it is to protect every lake and every river. Communities use lakes and rivers for fishing, paddling, boating, recreation and tourism.

Check the short Schedule of protected waterways to see if your local lake or river is protected. If it’s not on the list, it’s not protected. Tell your Member of Parliament how you, your family and your community use your local lake or river and that you want protections restored and enhanced under the NWPA.To learn more about how the NWPA can be enhanced, click here.

2. Restoring water protections was one of Trudeau’s election promises

The federal Liberal’s 2015 platform promised voters that they would restore and strengthen freshwater protections. Their platform said, “Stephen Harper’s changes to the Fisheries Act, and his elimination of the Navigable Waters Protection Act, have weakened environmental protections. We will review these changes, restore lost protections, and incorporate more modern safeguards.” People from coast to coast voted for the real change that the Liberals had promised. If you have a Liberal MP, remind them about their promise to restore lost water protections like those under the NWPA.

3. Communities want all lakes and rivers protected

In February, the Council of Canadians delivered 10,000 signed petitions calling on the Trudeau government to restore and enhance the NWPA. The petition called for all lakes, rivers and waterways to be fully protected; for the government to incorporate the obligation to obtain free, prior and informed consent as required by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into the NWPA; and implementation of strict safeguards for waterways to uphold the United Nations-recognized human right to water and sanitation.

More than 250 submissions were made to the Standing Committee on Transport including dozens of submissions from First Nations and Indigenous organizations like the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs as well as organizations like Ecojustice, Lake Ontario Waterkeepers, Wilderness Canoe Association and West Coast Environmental Law. Many submissions called for respect for Indigenous title and rights and for protections to be restored and enhanced.

4. Pipelines and other projects are threatening lakes and rivers

In 2012, the former Harper government removed  federal scrutiny of large pipelines and powerlines under the NWPA. The Standing Committee recommends that Transport Canada be included in the decision-making on environmental assessments for pipelines and power lines that cross navigable waters. It is unclear what this means and whether reviews will be conducted for all waterways. Ask your Member of Parliament for clarification.

Trudeau’s government has already given the green light to tar sands pipelines such as Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain and Enbridge’s Line 3 as well TransCanada’s NOVA Gas pipeline, which will transport fracked gas from northeastern B.C. to Alberta. The Kinder Morgan pipeline crosses 1,309 waterways in B.C. and Alberta, many of which are not on the Schedule of protected waterways. Tell your Member of Parliament about your concerns about how pipeline or other projects will affect local waterways.

5. Navigation, clean water and the environment are linked

There is an intimate link between navigation, clean waterways and environmental protection. Ecojustice has pointed out, “The interrelationship between navigation and the environment is such that the protection of the former consistently promotes the health of the latter.”

The 2010 oil spill in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan polluted local waterways and affected navigation. The Enbridge spill leaked thick tar-like substance into the river for 17 hours before the pipeline was shut down. More than $1 billion was spent on cleanup, which continues to this day. After the spill, sections of the river and Morrow Lake remained closed to recreational use and boating for nearly two years. Sections of the river also remained closed for dredging operations to retrieve some of the submerged diluted bitumen more than three years after the spill. Talk to your Member of Parliament about how clean waterways are needed for navigation (paddling, transporatation or fishing) and how the link to clean drinking water and a healthy environment.

At the same time that the Standing Committee made their weak recommendations in March, New Zealand granted the Whanguanui River the same legal rights as a human being. Days later, India legally recognized the Yamuna and Ganges rivers as "living entities." These historic decisions are what are needed to protect lakes and rivers.

There is nothing more important than clean water. We must urge Members of Parliament to put protections back on every lake and every river and work towards the bold visions that countries like New Zealand and India are carrying out in order to truly protect the world’s lakes and rivers.

Check out the following resources to prepare yourself for your meeting with your Member of Parliament:

Learn more about our #EveryLakeEveryRiver campaign