The Council of Canadians is condemning the Trudeau government’s response to the review on the Navigation Protection Act and its announcement that it will leave 99% of waterways unprotected in Canada. This move breaks the Liberal promise to restore protections lost when the Navigable Waters Protection Act was eliminated by the Harper government.
“We are deeply disappointed in the Trudeau government’s response to protecting the right to navigation and freshwater in Canada,” says Maude Barlow, chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “The key failing in the Trudeau government’s response is that it will leave 99 per cent of lakes and rivers unprotected from mega-dam, mining, fish farm and other industrial projects. There is also no clear commitment from the federal government to include pipeline reviews back under this legislation.”
Yesterday, Transport Canada issued a response accepting the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities recommendations, the first of which recommends leaving only a scant list of 99 rivers, 64 lakes and three oceans protected under the Navigation Protection Act, formerly the Navigable Waters Protection Act.
“Only 1 per cent of the 31,000 lakes and 2.25 million rivers in Canada will be protected under the Navigation Protection Act,” says Emma Lui, water campaigner for the Council of Canadians. “The federal government is abandoning its responsibility and its promise to protect people’s right to navigation and safeguard freshwater in Canada. This is also a clear violation of the government’s obligation to obtain free, prior and informed consent under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
Transport Canada states it will provide clarity on a process to add navigable waters to the Schedule of lakes and rivers. But the process could be so laborious and restrictive that it could effectively exclude certain lakes and rivers from the act for good. This puts the onus on communities to make the case to put protections back on waterways when it is the federal government’s responsibility to protect waterways for current and future generations.
During the October 2015 federal election, the Liberal Party criticized the Harper government's "elimination of the Navigable Waters Protection Act" and solemnly promised to "review these changes, restore lost protections, and incorporate more modern safeguards."
“Voters elected the Trudeau government in 2015 because they were hungry for “real change” from the Harper government’s harmful legacy on freshwater and environmental protections,” says Lui. “Many communities have urged the Trudeau government to take the most straightforward action possible – immediately restoring the gutted protection that had been in place for decades to protect 31,000 lakes and 2.25 million rivers – but the government has ignored these demands. This is a clear betrayal of voters.”
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