environment ethics

Navigable Waters Protection Act

I received an email this morning outlining the Canadian Governments efforts to overturn the protection of free flowing rivers in Canada. As it stands now, the law in Canada protects the public right of navigation in Canadian waters and has done so since 1882—the right to navigate waterways in Canada is a tradition that pre-dates the beginning of our country.

In particular, Merv Tweeds of Brandon-Souris has headed up the cause for selling out on Canada’s natural resources. From his website:

Tweed leads the way to change waterway act

BRANDON — March 13, 2008 – Merv Tweed, Member of Parliament for Brandon-Souris, is leading the review to make critical and long-overdue changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act.

“This act controls every waterway in Canada, no matter how small, and has caused significant delay in the approval of new infrastructure,” said Tweed.

The Transport, Infrastructure, and Communities Committee, which Tweed chairs, will review the act and will be tabling a report on the findings and recommendations for change in June.

“I believe that refocusing the act will provide a more timely and predictable process for the review and approval of critical infrastructure projects,” said Tweed.

The Navigable Waters Protection Act was written in 1882 to protect the public right of navigation in Canadian waters. Unfortunately, this act does not allow for the ability to exclude anything “constructed or placed on, under, over, through or across” a navigable water, as everything may interfere with navigation to some degree.

Industry and provincial, territorial and municipal governments have, for years, been requesting changes to the NWPA to reflect current needs and respond to the increased volume and variety of uses of Canada’s waterways.

The existing backlog of approvals is impeding economic growth and the timely development and refurbishment of critical transportation infrastructure that, in turn, has the potential of creating a backlog for the implementation of projects under “Building Canada Plan”.

My favourite paragraph deserves some dissection: “Unfortunately, this act does not allow for the ability to exclude anything ‘constructed or placed on, under, over, through or across’ a navigable water, as everything may interfere with navigation to some degree.” So what he’s trying to say is, it’s unfortunate that the law protects the public right of navigation because we want to imped that right.

I’ve been reading the Canadian Canoe Routes Forums thread on this topic:

Les Amis de Kipawa have fought against hydro Quebec to save the Kipawa river from being diverted. The foundation of their legal stratgey was to take the government to court over the navigability of the dam.

Last fall the case went to federal court and while Les Amis lost, they are rallying for an appeal. There is nothing apparently in the EA to build a case on. I can’t verify right now but memory is telling me that the build engineer and the EA engineer are the same company? Someone may be able to correct me on that.

If I was a conspiracy theorist, I’d say that this legeslation is a means to ensure one avenue to protest river projects no longer exists.


The Navigable Waters Protection Office (Transport Canada) has been a help for canoesists and kayakers out here, as our “in” to government, they’ve helped us (through the provincial association “RCABC”) see referrals on several projects, including the installation of man-made log jams, and helped us work with other government departments.

As a recent and positive example, just last month our canoe club came across some dangerous construction debris in a popular river – we contacted our people at Navigable Waters and they worked with Fisheries and Oceans (who happen to have a much more powerful & familar law) to see that the landowner removed the hazard.

Without Transport Canada having to take us seriously, it would be much harder to insert ourselves into such projects or to have other departments take action to protect recreational waterways.

Of particular interest is the fact that no boating organizations were contacted about the proposed legislation. Tomorrow is the deadline to make your complaints known but statements need to be translated in both French and English.

Jeff McColl says:

We have a site for the cause:

For the resaon why I am doing this go here (forum I belong to)

I am not a fan of chain e-mails and have never forwarded one, (except for child find ) let alone start one. However, if you are concerned for Canadian rivers or the debate(s) on other environmental concerns, then pass this on! I am not supported by any political party or major environmental group and have no multi-million dollar advertising budget. Only my passion for paddling and being outdoors propels me. So, equipped with the internet and written word as my tools, I hope to spread the word to help preserve our rights under the Navigable Waters Protection Act.

This Act, enshrined in law, gives all Canadians access to waterways and protects access to those waterways for future generations – the ability to canoe, kayak, power boat, to fish and to hunt, much the same as Canadians 100 years ago, except instead of doing it to survive we do it for recreation.

In the recent past, Canadians have learned to use this Act for protection of their water ways. The Act required that “works” be made known, giving a chance for concerned citizens to voice their concerns over those proposed projects. If Canadians, even 40 years ago, showed the same concern for their environment we would not be using huge amounts of tax dollars to rehabilitate the many cement ditches and destroyed urban watersheds.

The proposed changes brought forward in June of this year are cause for great concern to the ordinary user of Canadian water ways.

“Too silent to be real”

These words from Gordon Lightfoot’s “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” instantly place an image in your mind of the vast tracts of Canadian wilderness.

The trouble is – as we go into this election, the silence is real.

Canadian rivers/watersheds are under unprecedented assault.

The politicians are silent.

The majority of big environmental groups are silent.

The big professional groups/outfitters in all outdoor user groups are silent.

This leaves just a few ordinary Canadians voicing their concerns, trying to ensure the rights given to you over 100 years ago are preserved.

We can understand the need for changes,

We can also understand the need for a fast track mechanism to build infrastructure projects.

But we also understand that these works need to be done in an environmentally way as to safeguard the health of the watersheds.

There should be approved construction/water treatment processes that evolve with technological advancements.

We also believe that the Canadian public should not have to subsidize industry so that they may profit.

When looking for someone to quote, the person’s words who I felt were most appropriate were by Rev. Martin Niemoller. (His words at the end) I believe that Martin Niemoeller’s words were meant for more than man’s inhumanity to man.

As humans continue to assault the planet I believe we should heed his words.

And, as Rev. Niemoeller did, I release this letter to the public domain.

I am Jeff McColl, Milton, Ontario

I am just a mailman.

I speak for Canadian Rivers!

We can make a difference!

Forward/copy this to everyone, including the politicians.

Let them know you are speaking up!

“First they came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time there was no one
left to speak up for me.”
– Rev. Martin Niemoller, 1945

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