Canada is a country woven together by the lakes and rivers that span the land from coast-to-coast-to-coast. It is in these waters where we have learnt to swim, paddle and to fish. But much more than that, waterways across the country form a key pillar for community, economic, and physical health.

In 2012, changes made to one of Canada’s oldest laws, the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) eliminated protection for over 99% of Canada’s waterways. Under the new Navigation Protection Act (NPA) just 64 rivers, 97 lakes, and the three oceans are protected from development that restricts their navigability.

The NWPA was a key environmental piece of legislation used to protect water flows from impacts of extraction and development. For the millions of lakes, rivers, and streams that lost protection, a permit is no longer needed to build bridges or structures that could intercept their flow. Under the NPA only a tiny fraction, 1% of Canada’s rivers and lakes, are listed “scheduled waters” for protection.

You can help ensure that no waters are left behind! 

Write a letter-to-the-editor and make navigation protections news!

What Changed in 2012?

  • Millions of waterways lost protection

  • Focus of law shifts from protecting navigable waters to protecting navigation

  • Before the 2012 Omnibus Bill C-45 all dams, pipelines, and activities that could block navigation needed approval from the Transport Minister

  • Only a short list of lakes and rivers – under 1% of Canada’s waterways - require government review of developments that could impair their flow

  • The 2012 Bill C-38, de-coupled projects regulated under the NWPA from requiring an environmental assessment


How Does this Impact Me?

  • Century-old public rights to navigation lost on millions of rivers.

  • This reduced federal protection means an individual or group that depends on a waterway for recreation or livelihood must go to court to challenge development that impedes navigability.

  • Your right to enjoy rivers whose waters flow clean, also ensures deer can drink from their shores, and fish can continue to swim their lengths.

Past Campaigns

We asked people to help expand the list of waters protected by nominating their favourite waterway and showing that they want protections restored for all navigable waters in Canada!

Nominate your cherished lake or river for legal protection.