Threat to Canadian navigable waters - URGENT

Roger Young

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Here's something everyone who loves canoeing and boating in Canadian waters should be made aware of - Canadians, and those from elsewhere who simply love travelling on our lakes and rivers, alike.

The Conservative federal government of Prime Minister Harper is about to gut the very rights and protections that have historically been safeguarded under our Navigable Waters Protection Act. In recent Budget legislation submitted to Parliament earlier this month, the government has craftily hidden away (on p. 143, amongst other small details), provisions which would seriously curtail the present environmental protections and freedom to navigate just about any body of water on which a canoe can float. These rights pre-date the founding of Canada; they affect First Nations groups, paddlers, boaters, sailors, shipping, campers, trekkers, environmentalists. Why is this happening?

Friends of the government in western Canada became upset when projects like bridges, dams, booms and causeways over smaller water bodies were getting bogged down in required environmental impact studies prior to approval. They convinced Harper change was needed. So, the government has decided to exempt those sorts of projects from further environmental approvals. Furthermore, it has decided to give to the Minister of Transport the sole authority to decide which projects can be 'fast-tracked', which waterways can be deemed important, and which can be 'written off' and neglected (i.e., no longer worthy of navigable protection status). And, to our great shame, all this is about to be done in the name of budgetary economic recovery legislation, hidden away in the detail pages of a dull budget process rather than publicly debated in open parliament, and with no public hearings or witnesses being called or allowed. Worse, it affects all waters in Canada.

Do you get the picture??? This is nothing short of governance by Ministerial fiat. Decisions about our traditional rights to free navigation made in secret, subject to hidden influence, possible political pay-off, etc., etc. This can't happen in Canada, you say? Well, it is. It's going on right now, and the government is trying to ram it through with very limited debate. One hearing is scheduled for this evening, Feb. 23rd. Likely it may be the only one, unless a great public outcry is raised.

What can you do? Write a note to Prime Minister Harper and complain:

Write a note to Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff and beg him not to support this Budget unless the amendments to the Navigable Waters Protection Act are removed and debated separately:

One of our great canoeing members, Becky Mason, is involved in this fight to protect our navigable waters. Please help out by joining her and many others such as Sierra Club, David Suzuki, many 'Waterkeeper' groups across Canada, etc.

Here are two website which will give you some background, and lead you to other sources.

Thank you for any support you can lend. Help save our rights to navigate our waters; help us protect them against undesirable environmental destruction. This is the "thin edge of the wedge". If we let our present government do this now, it will be too late when we come to find there is no more favorite river to paddle because it's been despoiled by another causeway, bridge, boom, power plant, etc., and there were no hearings, no impact studies, no public input, all in the name of expediency and secretive backroom dealings.