This morning, Canadian artists came together in opposition of changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Here's what Canada's artists had to say alongside Canadian Waterkeepers:
Gord Downie, musician and Lake Ontario Steward: For thousands of years, the laws of the land said that all people were free to travel anywhere on any waterway. Building on that tradition, all Canadians have historically enjoyed the same right to use all of our nation's waterways. We can travel wherever we want on the water, for any reason. It doesn't matter how rich or poor we are, or where we live.
This new bill changes all of that. Our claim to Canada's rivers is older than the country itself. For the last four years, the government has been trying to find a way to pry that claim from the hands of all citizens and reserve it for a select few. If this new law passes, they finally get their wish. The transfer of rights will be complete.
This attack, in the name of 'eliminating red tape', is actually about eliminating concerned Canadians from the discussion around the health and safety of their waterways, of their communities. This attack on the Navigable Waters Protection Act is really an attack on all Canadians, on our process, on our democracy (or what's left of it).
Leslie Feist, Juno-award-winning singer-songwriter: I've had the chance to learn about the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the risk that we could be losing its long established guardianship. It maintains our hard earned rights to move freely in our own country and was put in place to ensure that no wires, dams, causeways or other blockages could inhibit our free access to our waterways without public notice. If we lose the protection of the NWPA, we lose our opportunity to study ungoverned and unaccountable development's possible impacts to fish, wildlife, communities and lives. It leaves our waters open to exploitation by the first person to get there with a backhoe.
Sarah Harmer, Juno-award-winning singer-songwriter and environmental advocate: We write about the land, we travel this great country, our history is based upon our ability to travel through our waterways. It's a huge part of our Canadian identity. Culturally, our land and our water has been a huge source of inspiration. Water isn't something that we can isolate from ourselves. It's the most crucial thing to be concerned about.
Mark Mattson, President and Lake Ontario Waterkeeper: The Navigable Waters Protection Act protected the rights of Canadians travelling on the water for over a century. The federal government is now eliminating equal protection for all Canadians. By removing "water" from the "Navigable Waters Protection Act", the government is removing all meaning from one of our oldest laws. I don't think they truly understand the repercussions their actions will have. People will be hurt out there.
Meredith Brown, Executive Director and Ottawa Riverkeeper: If these changes go through, no public consultation – you won't even be aware that a project is built – so now it becomes reactive. Your only chance to change things on 99 per cent of our water bodies are to take a court case on, which can be expensive and cumbersome for members of the public who want to challenge decisions on a project by project basis.