Boat show stories inspired our latest letter to Transport Canada to protect navigation rights in Canada
Thanks to some powerful stories and great conversations at the recent Toronto International Boat Show, we were able to submit one more letter to Transport Canada to help protect your environmental rights.
Quick recap: Last year the government began an official review of the Navigation Protection Act. One of the oldest laws in Canada, the Navigation Protection Act underwent sweeping changes in 2009 and 2012 that completely transformed how waterbodies in Canada received protections. Before the changes, every body of water where you could float a canoe was protected by default. After the changes, only 164 lakes and rivers are protected.
We submitted a written brief with five recommendations during Parliament’s formal committee hearings last fall. You can read them here.
The Navigation Protection Act is a deeply flawed law. In our submission, we told the government that it needed to launch a longer public consultation process and invite more people to participate.
Transport Canada extended the deadline for public comment. Anyone up to January 30 could email the ministry directly and share their thoughts on the Navigation Protection Act and navigation in Canada in general.
Waterkeeper seized this opportunity, not only to provide our own submission, but also to engage with you, and hear your thoughts on navigation in Canada.
We operated a booth at the Toronto International Boat Show January 20-29, 2017. We invited attendees to share a story about their favourite place to boat. Nearly 300 people shared stories with us.
We also led four workshops and one seminar describing navigation protections in Canada and inviting people to look at the schedule of “listed” waters to see if their favourite waterbody is protected.
The most common response to the workshop was: "All waters you can float a canoe on in Canada are worth protecting by the Federal Government; we don't need a list to tell us what is important and what is not."
These comments reflect concerns about the shift from an “in until it’s out” approach to navigation protection to “out until it’s in”. Traditionally, any body of water you could float a canoe on (i.e., that was “navigable”) were protected. Today, no body of water is protected by default—it must appear on a list of special waters.
To truly protect navigation rights and freedoms and individuals in Canada, the old approach of protection-by-default should be restored.
We underscore this recommendation by noting that the number one concern we heard regarding the Navigation Protection Act is this: people believe they will not be informed about projects that interfere with navigation until it is too late. If the government cannot ensure a meaningful consultation process now, there is little reason for them to believe that future consultations on a waterway-by-waterway or project-by-project basis will be any better.
Be sure to check below for our full submission.
NOTE: Navigation stories and comments about waterbodies collected at the Toronto International Boat Show will be published in the Watermark Project archive in the near future. Where participants consented, those stories will be shared with the general public, including Transport Canada: www.watermarkproject.ca. Thanks to all who shared their stories with us!