“The simple act of dipping one’s paddle into the water and pulling, propelling oneself forward - such is an act that defines ‘Canada’”. This is the message Lake Ontario Waterkeeper presented June 16, 2009 to the 6th annual Canadian River Heritage Conference in Ottawa.
In a paper presented at the conference, Vice President of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper Krystyn Tully examined the process by which the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) was amended, the reasoning behind those changes, and some of the concerns the new act raises.
“The right to navigation predates the NWPA. It finds its roots in some of humanity’s oldest legal traditions, including the Code of Justinian and Magna Carta. Our respect and understanding for the act of navigation has crumbled. In our hurry to ‘modernize’ our laws, our Parliamentarians have laid the groundwork for two-tier environmental protection”.
Important issues surfaced during the amendment process. They offer insight into the future of decision-making in Canada when it comes to environmental protection:
- The amendments to the NWPA were never publicly championed by one, accountable individual
- Changes to the NWPA reflect the interests of one group of stakeholders, but not necessarily the public at large
- The amended NWPA bypassed full consultation with the public, including First Nations
- As federal departments continue to “streamline” their environmental assessment processes, it is unclear how the changes to the NWPA will safeguard environmental assessments for navigation issues in the future
The issue is not yet resolved. Potential future changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Fisheries Act mirror many of the changes we see in the NWPA. What's more, individuals must remember that we have the right to swim, drink and fish in our waterways across the country. The day we forget is the day that our right is truly lost.
This week on Living at the Barricades we go deeper into Krystyn's presentation to the Canadian River Heritage Conference. We also party with Ottawa Riverkeeper as we celebrate the launch the Swim Drink Fish Music Club. Sarah Harmer was on hand to perform, along with speeches from Ottawa Riverkeeper Meredith Brown and Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and Mark Mattson.
Music on this week's show:
Sarah Harmer - Muddy River
Justin Bird Featuring Sarah Harmer - For You
Listen to the show: