Canadians are facing another massive omnibus bill that amends many other pieces of legislation.
New Democrats stand firmly against this method of presenting legislation. It prevents fulsome debate on all the laws being amended and is not a democratic way of changing legislation.
For residents of Lake Cowichan, the provisions on changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act may have the largest implications.
The federal government has been responsible for protecting the navigation of waters “deep enough for a canoe” since the 1880s. As time went on, the Navigable Waters Protection Act was considered a model for environmental protection because any request to affect the navigation of a waterway triggered an environmental assessment.
So it makes sense that the Conservatives have diluted the Act by removing most of Canada’s navigable waters. This is another step in their dismantling of the environmental protections that Canadians developed over years to protect our lands and waters.
Under the changes proposed in C-45, only the three oceans, 97 lakes and 62 rivers will be covered by the new Navigation Protection Act. That’s less than two percent of Canada’s waterways.
Even with its designation as a heritage river, the Cowichan will not fall under this new Act.
Instead, the river and lake will fall under provincial jurisdiction and the province will be responsible for protecting the river and its navigation.
This means any project that may affect a waterway – through a diversion, building a structure on or across the river, a pipeline or utility crossing the river – none of these projects will be reviewed by Transport Canada to determine how it affects the navigability of the river.
Our waterways are a public resource; one that Canadians determined long ago should not be limited by private interests.
The Navigable Waters Protection Act has helped keep our waterways free of obstructions, while still allowing governments to authorize necessary changes, like docks, breakwaters, and bridges.
The federal government also announced changes to the Fisheries Act – amendments to the amendments it made in the last budget implementation bill in March.
Critical to the Fisheries Act changes is the list of rivers and lakes which would remain protected under that Act. The government has already said it will only protect lakes and rivers with “economic value”.
I am concerned that the work many volunteers are doing to re-establish salmon runs on the Cowichan River will no longer be supported by the Department of Fisheries and Ocean because it is not a commercial run.
Please email the Prime Minister directly at
firstname.lastname@example.org to share your concerns with this latest omnibus bill.