In June 2017, the Government of Canada released a Discussion Paper asking Canadians to submit comments that will improve federal protections for the environment. The Paper marks the one-year mark in an ongoing review of environmental assessment, energy, nuclear, fisheries, and navigation laws in Canada.
The Discussion Paper makes it clear from the start that protections for fisheries and water are insufficient, that there needs to be more transparency around the information, knowledge, and science used to make decisions, and that public participation opportunities are limited and do not always fall at the appropriate time in the decision-making process. The needs to improve consultation with Indigenous communities and to include Indigenous knowledge in decision-making are also referenced throughout the Discussion Paper.
While Canada’s environmental laws have never been perfect, there is a direct connection between many of the key problems identified in the Discussion Paper and changes made to federal laws in recent years. Between 2009 and 2012, every major federal environmental law was changed. Key environment and fisheries programs were cut. Most of the legislative and budget decisions were made without warning, consultation, or support from experts or the public. Trust in the federal process, as the Discussion Paper notes, has been lost.
This submission focuses on our high-level response to the Discussion Paper. In particular, we share our concerns about the lack of progress being made to protect navigation rights in Canada.