The Liberal government of Prime Minister is proposing amendments to the Navigable Waters Act but critics say it changes little or nothing in terms of protecting lakes and river ecosystems PHOTO: Charles Rex Arbogast/The Associated Press

Protecting Canada’s watercourses: new bill doesn’t do it says advocacy group


The federal government is proposing changes to the “Navigable Waters Act” which regulates development projects that have an effect on navigable waters.

The 30 pages of changes were placed within the 416 page proposal called Bill C-69. Many people have expressed concern over the amendments to the Act which they say does little to protect Canadian waters.

Emma Lui (M.A) is the Water Campaigner with the NGO- Council of Canadians.


The Council says the new proposals to protect water courses in Canada don’t change much and don’t provide enough protection to nearly enough lakes and rivers.

Emma Lui, Water Campaigner for the advocacy group, Council of Canadians

The recently tabled Bill C-69 would govern the reviews of proposed tar sands pipelines, mines, hydroelectric dams and transmission lines.

A Globe and Mail article notes,“scientists and advocates worry there is no clear guidance under which projects would be turned down because of environmental impacts”.

Emma Lui notes that the proposal allows the minister of environment or possibly the federal cabinet would have the discretion to declare a project to be in the national interest and approve it, regardless of the findings of the impact assessment review, and could do after the project has begun.

Council of Canadians water campaigner Emma Lui highlights, “The amendments to the Canadian Navigable Waters Act fall short of what Indigenous nations, environmental groups, residents and other organizations called for during the Standing Committee review which included restoring protections on all lakes and rivers and obtaining free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous nations. A closer look at the bill shows pipelines and power lines are still exempt from the act and raises questions about whether the act protects all waterways from dam projects.”

She also notes Bill C-69:

  • 1- does not provide the modern safeguard of protecting water beyond human use.
  • 2- maintains a schedule of navigable waters, that it’s unclear which waterways are on that schedule, and that waterways can even be removed from that schedule.
  • 3- gives the minister the power to approve an activity (including an unauthorized dam to be used for fracking) after it has begun.
  • 4- puts the onus on the individual to protect a waterway not listed in the schedule in the dispute resolution process.
  • 5- mentions a public registry without specifying what information would be required for it thus undermining public participation in the process.
  • 6- does not include modern safeguards as promised by the Liberals during the October 2015 federal election.
  • Lui says there are still many aspects about the implementation of the Act until it actually comes into force and measures applied.
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Posted in Environment, Politics

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