Traveling on rivers and lakes will soon be decided by corporate interests as government changes NWP Act

The requirement for governments and other groups to consult with First Nations about appropriate use of traditional lands is now under attack by the Harper government and corporate interests as they move forward on revisions to the Navigable Waters Protection Act. The "duty to consult" rulings by the Supreme Court will once again have to be used to ensure First Nation traditional lands and resources (including the waterways) are respected within this new Act.

 Everyone is being encouraged to act now and write (see the sample letter below) about how wrong this new direction is when it comes to the lakes and rivers that cover Canada.


Green Party sounds alarm bell on plans to gut Navigable Waters Protection Act

June 10, 2008

OTTAWA – The Green Party of Canada is denouncing the Conservative government’s plans to weaken the critical Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA). For several months, the House Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities has been quietly studying the proposed changes without notifying most environmental, paddling, recreation and sporting groups or soliciting public consultation.

“As one of the oldest pieces of federal legislation, the Navigable Waters Protection Act ensures Canadians have the right to use and enjoy public waterways,” said Green Party leader Elizabeth May. “It is also one of the few tools we have to protect the delicate ecosystems of these bodies of water. The proposed changes would gut the Act and threaten Canada’s waterways by exempting certain major waterway developments from the approval process, meaning an environmental assessment would no longer be required. This effort has nothing to do with modernizing the Act and everything to do with facilitating projects that may harm waterways.”

The proposed changes include amending the definition of “navigable waters” to exclude minor waters from the Act, excluding so-called minor development projects and exempting bridges, dams, causeways, and booms from those developments requiring approval under the Act.

“The NWPA exists to protect the rights of those who use waterways for recreation,” said Environment critic and Guelph by-election candidate Mike Nagy. “By changing the definition of ‘navigable waters’, the government would no longer be required to consider communities that make use of more minor waterways when considering development, nor would environmental impact be taken into account. The changes will adversely affect recreational paddlers, rafters and canoeists across the country and could cause irreversible damage to ecosystems. It could mean an end to family canoe trips down favourite rivers. Having access to paddle our waterways is a part of our natural and cultural heritage.”

“Community interest and environmental impact should always primary considerations – not the interests of developers,” said Ms. May. “The Harper government’s willingness to rewrite the NWPA as industry lobbyists see fit is deeply troubling. The Green Party is calling on opposition MPs to ensure the proposed amendments do not pass and denounces the lack of public involvement in this move to significantly alter key legislation.”


From the Ontario Canoe Recreation Association ...

The Canadian Federal Government is considering revising the Navigable Waterways Protection Act (NWPA). I know, this sounds dreadfully boring, but this is really crucial to the future well being of our lakes and rivers.

I’ve been told that the hearings for the NWPA have finished and I have also learnt that all presenters at the hearings with one exception argued for the removal of yours and my rights. This bill will probably be tabled in the House in the fall.

Very briefly, and in a nutshell the NWPA law of 1882 states that all navigation has to be considered before any development can occur in a navigable waterway. If it is found that navigation will be inhibited then an Environmental Assessment is automatically triggered before permission for development is granted. Proposed changes to the definition of a navigable waterway will mean that many of our favourite rivers and streams will not be considered navigable waterways and thus not fall under the protection of the act, leaving them open to possible development without an automatic environmental assessment. It also means that our traditional “right of navigation” in small watercraft (canoes, kayaks, rafts, even motor boats) is taken away and no assessment of impacts on navigation would be required for any projects on those waterways.

I think that this is really important. Here are three things you can do today:

  1. (I've included a sample letter below) Please write a letter to all the members of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities (TRAN) because they need to be told they should not do away with our rights. This is essential for a whole range of environmental, social and economic reasons for Canada’s unique waterways. The recommendations for the re-writing of the NWPA is happening soon so please send an email to the list below as soon as possible. They will have to consider the public's input if they receive enough letters.
  2. Attend the "Vigil for Rivers" on Parliament Hill Sunday June 8th at 7pm.
    If you live near Ottawa please come to this important Canadian Rivers Day gathering in support of rivers and to protest the NWPA changes. I'll be saying a few words along with others.
  3. Pass the information along to others.

Make some changes or write your own letter and send to Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities (TRAN) because I'm told they are the ones making the final decision. Please CC the emails I've included too.

Be creative in your subject heading

Send to

C.C. John Baird (Minister of Environment) Lawrence Cannon (Minister of Transportation) Loyola Hearn (Minister of Fisheries & Oceans) Dave Osbaldeston (National Manger responsible for the NWPA)

Find your MPs email at


Dear: Members of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities,

I am writing to tell you of my concern for the future of our Canadian Heritage Navigation Rights when travelling our Canadian waterways in small craft. I was very upset to learn that your hearings are over concerning the removal of my rights from the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA). I have learnt that all presenters at the hearings with one exception argued for the removal of my rights. This was not an adequate opportunity for public input or response. I think it is unacceptable and short-sighted to have not consulted the people, organizations and businesses involved in navigation in Canada so that they might have a say in this important issue at your hearing. Like many other Canadians I have numerous concerns about potential losing my Navigation Rights.

I think that our navigable waterways are magnificent treasures that should be managed with the public's input. I am informed that the hearings conducted listened to the one sided view of the presenters that want to do away with a part of our traditional Canadian Heritage. Please you need to listen to the other views of our people in our great land of water too. Our country was first explored and mapped by our First Nations and then European fore-fathers navigating in canoes and small craft. The proposed changes to the NWPA are premature and faulty because of the lack of public consultation! I believe that having public input is key to strengthening the protection of the future of our waterways.

I strongly urge you to not recommend the elimination of Navigation Rights for small water craft because I want to retain my right to be able to trigger an Environmental Assessment if we, the public, want one.

This would ensure that all environmental, social and economic concerns are addressed before development can occur in sensitive waterway areas.

I would also like you to consider the ramifications of allowing this proposed precedent setting elimination of our rights and the message it seems to be saying: that most of our waterways could be open for development if the NWPA is rewritten to exclude the Navigation Rights for small water craft. And I assure you that this is a message that the majority of Canadians will not be pleased to hear.


(Your Name and mailing address)


If you need more information please contact:

Doug Skeggs
Director of River Protection
Les Amis de la Rivière Kipawa


Celeste Côté,
National Water Campaigner, Sierra Club Canada

or me
Becky Mason and I can forward you along to someone

Click here to find complete contact information can be found here about the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities (TRAN)

Click here to find complete contact information on the C.C.s can be found here


Becky Mason

Becky Mason and Reid McLachlan
Chelsea, Quebec, Canada