Federal Omnibus Bill Sinks Key Protections of Canada’s Waters

Thursday, October 18, 2012 (All day)

Media Release - October 18, 2012

Oil pipelines and countless waterways no longer to be regulated by the Navigable Waters Protection Act

VANCOUVER - The Wilderness Committee is condemning legislation changes unveiled today in the federal government’s new omnibus budget bill, which make it easier for major industrial developments including oil pipelines, mines, logging, interprovincial powerlines and private hydropower projects to damage or obstruct Canadian waterways.

Framed by the government as a way of making it easier to build small recreational docks and wharfs, the Wilderness Committee maintains that the legislation changes amount to an all-out assault on the nation’s environment.

Included in today’s budget bill are provisions affecting key protections for Canadian rivers, lakes, oceans and fish—such as the gutting of the Navigable Waters Protection Act, and additional changes to the already-weakened Fisheries Act and Environmental Assessment Act .

Amendments to the Navigable Waters Protection Act—to be renamed the Navigation Protection Act—include a particularly disconcerting clause that says the legislation will no longer apply to pipelines.

The Navigable Waters Protection Act is just one of many pieces of federal legislation that have traditionally acted as triggers for environmental assessments on industrial projects. Relaxing the rules and deciding that these acts no longer apply to certain projects mean that industry will have free reign to develop projects that would have formerly come under greater scrutiny.

“Something that used to be an important tool in helping to trigger environmental assessments and keep our lakes and rivers safe from inappropriate development has now been drastically weakened, to the point that it only applies to a small list of waters deemed significant by the federal government” said Joe Foy, National Campaign Director at the Wilderness Committee.

The new Navigation Protection Act only applies to 162 bodies of water across the country, including three oceans, 97 lakes and ponds, and only 62 rivers and streams.

“In provinces like Manitoba, there are more than a hundred thousand lakes and countless rivers that previously had protection through this Act. Now only four lakes and three rivers will be protected,” said Eric Reder, the Wilderness Committee’s Manitoba Campaign Director.

“Unregulated and poorly planned industrial projects can have a wide ranging impact on our natural areas. This will completely devastate our boreal wilderness landscapes,” Reder said. 

Provincial legislation may provide some protection for the waters now excluded from federal protection, but since many rivers and streams cross provincial boundaries, Canadians can’t count on provinces to pick up the slack.

 

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For more information, contact:

Joe Foy, National Campaign Director, Wilderness Committee - (604) 880-2580

Eric Reder, Manitoba Campaign Director, Wilderness Committee - (204) 997-8584