Right to navigate in the hands of Canada’s Senators
The future of Canada’s waterways - and our rights to access them - is now in the hands of Canada’s Senators. Last week, Senators engaged in a passionate, intelligent debate over the merits of burying changes to navigation rights within the federal budget act. The Budget Implementation Act then passed Second Reading and was referred to the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance for discussion, clause-by-clause review, and possible amendment.
Some of the most controversial elements of The Budget Implementation Act are the sweeping changes proposed within for the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA). The amended NWPAwould “streamline” the decision-making process for projects that affect navigable waterways and divide Canada’s rivers into those worth protecting and those not worth protecting. It marks a significant change from the existing process that critics (including Lake Ontario Waterkeeper) argue undermines the traditional right to travel via public waterways.
Senior government officials and political leaders say the changes are necessary in order to stimulate the economy, but have failed to engage in public consultation or release documents, such as the strategic environmental assessment, to support their claims.
Senators now have the option of severing the navigation issues from the Budget Implementation Actand dealing with them through separate legislation in the future. This would allow passage of the economic stimulus budget in a matter of days, while protecting the integrity of the Parliamentary system and allowing for public consultation on controversial issues like navigation rights.
Meanwhile, the flood of emails continues as citizens across the country send their messages to Ottawa about the importance of navigation to First Nations communities, hunting, angling, recreation, business and the environment.
“In all my years as an environmental lawyer, I have never seen anything like this,” says Mark Mattson. “Across the country, paddlers, outdoors people, and First Nations are standing up to say any threat to our right to navigate public waters must be dealt with properly, in the light of day.”
The Senate finance committee meets to review the bill Tuesday morning at 9:15
The new developments to the Navigable Waters Protection Act is also the discussion of this week’sLiving at the Barricades.
A blueprint for plunder (Mar. 3, 2009)
Today on Living at the Barricades, Krystyn and Mark deliver an update on proposed amendments to the Navigable Waters Protection Act hidden inside the Budget Bill, and a look at what it really means to use the term “red tape”. We’ll hear from Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Stan Beardy, and Professor Karl Copland of the Pace Environmental Law Clinic.
Music on this week’s show:
Listen to the show…
Read up on Lake Ontario Waterkeeper’s backgrounder on the Navigable Water’s Protection Act atwww.waterkeeper.ca/NWPA