Prime Minister Justin Trudeau just announced the start of a major review of our water laws.
Four years ago, the Harper government removed protections from 99% of the lakes and rivers in Canada. Harper gutted the laws that protect freshwater in Canada, including the Navigable Waters Protection Act, the Fisheries Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and more.
This paved the way for industrial projects that could threaten water. Water sources for municipalities and Indigenous communities are vulnerable to dams, mining, pipelines, logging, fish farms, liquefied fracked gas terminals and more.
Lakes and rivers in Canada must be protected under federal legislation. But Big Oil, which lobbied the Harper government to exempt mega-pipelines from regulation under the Navigable Waters Protection Act, doesn’t want these protections restored. So right now they are using their deep pockets and political connections to lobby our new government to keep things as they were under Harper.
That’s why it’s critical that you speak up now. The federal government is asking for your input on its review of two key pieces of legislation by July 20, 2016.
Here are talking points for the letter:
The Harper omnibus budget bills made changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act that resulted in the cancellation of nearly 3,000 environmental assessments. The scope of environmental assessments was also narrowed.
Comprehensive environmental studies no longer need to include information such as:
- The impact on navigable waters or any unique or special resources.
- The “components of the environment that are likely to be affected by the project and a summary of potential environmental effects” and information relating to the terrain, water bodies, air and vegetation that would give federal authorities a more accurate picture of the environment that may be impacted by the activity.
- The name, width and depth of any waterway affected by the project and a description of how the waterway is likely to be affected.
- Environmental studies must assess the impacts of projects on all waterways.
- Pipelines were completely exempted from regulation under the Navigable Waters Protection Act. The Energy East pipeline is an example of a project that is moving forward without scrutiny of how it will impact navigation and waterways. The 4,600-kilometre pipeline would cross and endanger 2,963 identified waterways and countless smaller streams and wetlands along the way.
- Restore and enhance water legislation so that waterways are fully protected.
- Restore the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act to include the impact of projects on waterways. Restore protections for all lakes, rivers and waterways under the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which was renamed the Navigation Protection Act by the Harper government.
- Hold public consultations and independent expert panels, and incorporate feedback to strengthen freshwater laws.
- Consult with Indigenous communities on a nation-to-nation basis and incorporate the obligation to obtain free, prior and consent into water legislation so that Indigenous treaty and water rights are respected.
- Implement strict safeguards for waterways within the framework of the United Nations-recognized human right to water.
- Establish a community consultation process that fosters true collaboration between communities and government so regulatory agencies implement community recommendations on an ongoing basis.