A short history of legislated protections for navigable waters in Canada. 



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.


The Freshwater Alliance's Role in all this

In 2016, we launched #NoWatersLeftBehind, a campaign to engage as many Canadians as possible around environmental law reform for navigable waters in Canada. Hundreds of Canadians nominated their home lakes and rivers for protection, wrote letters to local media and their elected representatives to voice their support for better protections for navigable waters.