Environmental groups are calling on the Canadian government to fully restore legal protections for navigable waters. Bill C-69, which includes the newly proposed Canadian Navigable Waters Act,introduced in the House of Commons on February 8, broadens some protections for navigable waterways, but does not fully restore what was lost.
In 2012, the Navigable Waters Protection Act was replaced with the Navigation Protection Act, stripping federal protections from 99 percent of navigable waters. The changes introduced earlier this month are in response to mandates to restore those lost protections.
The new Act extends protections beyond the exclusive list of waterways (called the Schedule) to include publicly accessible waterways. However, with waterways on private lands exempt and further regulations needed to set out the types of projects to which approvals are tied, it is unclear how broadly protections will be applied.
“We are encouraged by the requirement that major projects on waterways in Canada will have government oversight,” said Lindsay Telfer, national project director with the Canadian Freshwater Alliance, …Emma Lui, water campaigner with the Council of Canadians: “We also support Indigenous nations’ calls for free, prior and informed consent. Any modern safeguards must incorporate the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”