Recent Freshwater Alliance Posts

Environmental Groups Call for Full Restoration of Lost Protections for Navigable Waters

Recently announced federal legislation must go further

OTTAWA - 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.


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Environmental laws get a tweak with Bill C-69: navigable waters in need of a full fix

There are a few important items that you may have missed in last weeks 341 page environmental omnibus Bill C-69. To date, the majority of the public coverage on the Bill has been around environmental assessment and energy regulation. But anyone who is a recreational water enthusiast or concerned about environmental flows, has an interest in the third part of the act that amends navigation protection (which protects waterways from obstructions). Here we’ve broken down some of the big changes.

Tip for readers: Our analysis of this Bill and all its implications is ongoing and we will post our analysis as well as key asks in the weeks and months ahead as we track this Bill in Ottawa through the House of Commons. For a snapshot, check out the TL;DR (too long; didn’t read).

Why amendments must go beyond restoring what was lost

The 2012 amendments to the Navigable Waters Protections Act (NWPA) stripped protections from 99% of waters by eliminating environmental assessment requirements and narrowing federal government oversight to an exclusive list or Schedule under the Navigation Protection Act (NPA). This meant that approvals for projects on scheduled waters would not trigger a look at environmental impacts. By reducing federal oversight to a short-list of waters on the schedule the vast majority of our lakes and rivers lost regulatory protection. For the majority of waters, the public right to navigation was left to the public to defend in court.

A look at proposed amendments

1. New definition for navigable waters

The proposed Canadian Navigable Waters Act (CNWA) adds clarity to decision making with a definition for navigable waters. Though the definition (pictured below) extend protections beyond the schedule to provide federal oversight for large developments on publicly accessible waterways, it is narrower than the canoe test. 

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Amendments leave important gaps in restoring lost protections for navigable waters

Representatives of the Canadian Freshwater Alliance say the newly proposed Navigable Waters Act may broaden some protections for navigable waterways across the country, but falls short of fully restoring the lost protections promised in ministerial mandate letters.

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Welcome, Megan!

The Freshwater Alliance is happy to welcome Megan Peloso to the team. Megan has long been a partner with the Alliance, and now she's officially 'one of us!' Now over to Megan to introduce herself. 


Hello!  I am delighted to be in the position to introduce myself as B.C. Communications Lead with the Freshwater Alliance. My name is Megan Peloso, and I am based out of Smithers, where I am grateful to live, work and play within the unceded traditional territories of the Wet’suwet’en First Nations.

Though I have called B.C. home for 7 years, I grew up in Ottawa, on the unceded traditional territories of the Algonquin Anishnaabeg First Nations People. Big River watersheds – Ottawa, Columbia, Bulkley and Skeena – have snaked and pulsed through my story and are something like family members, or places where my best memories are stored.

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The bridges Canada must build, right here at home

By John Ralston Saul

This piece was originally published August 25, 2017 in the Globe and Mail. Walls, Bridges, Homes is a series of essays written in response to the emerging global appetite for a progressive narrative around inclusion and immigration. The series frames the thematic focus on 6 Degrees Citizen Space (Sept. 25-27), a forum presented by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship.

We have included this piece in our blog series for the way in which it weaves together the cultural and historic significance of rivers and the concept of rivers as bridges for building better relationships among all peoples. 

We seem to be desperate today to build bridges or to blow them up. The wall or no-wall argument, the barbed-wire fences now cutting up Europe are just new versions of the old idea that wherever water flows, people can be separated.

Wars are still fought from riverbank to riverbank, as they have been for thousands of years. People still glower at or cower from each other across these theoretically uncrossable divides. Borders still follow rivers or mountains or ocean coasts, unless they were drawn in straight lines on a map by rival imperial officials – lines designed to show not their belief in diversity, but their indifference to complexity in colonial lands.

We have this odd idea that borders are natural divisions – an idea fixed in our imaginations because so much of modern Europe was built on that myth. War after war after war leading from the Westphalian treaties in 1648 to the modern Westphalian nation-states. One way or another, these wars were aimed at creating what I call the monolithic model. Wars, rivers and mountains or arbitrarily drawn lines shaping nations which claim to house a single people. And the only way you can get to that notion of a single people is by pretending that they are made up of a single race, a monolithic religious belief system and total agreement on a shared mythology.


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