Few lakes and rivers are protected now. Luckily, this lake is located in Waterton National Park, ensuring its preservation. PHOTO CREDIT - Gord McKenna (Flickr Creative Commons)
Few lakes and rivers are protected now. Luckily, this lake is located in Waterton National Park, ensuring its preservation. PHOTO CREDIT – Gord McKenna (Flickr Creative Commons)

By Stephan Boissonneault

Under the Conservative government, the number of protected lakes and rivers in Canada has dropped substantially from 2.5 million to just 159. To put things in perspective, this means that close to 98 per cent of Canada’s waterways no longer federal protection. This is alarming; Canada is one of the world’s largest supplies of fresh water.

Amendments to Bill C-45 in 2013, dubbed the Navigation Protection Act, are to blame for this enormous shift. The changes removed almost all of the environmental protection barriers from Canadian lakes and rivers. Under the old law a waterway was deemed protected if it was “navigable”, that is, if any vessel could float on top of it. With the new changes, only waterways that receive an abundance of traffic, such as the St. Lawrence River are protected. The Navigable Protection Act (NPA) now protects a total of 97 lakes, 62 rivers, and three oceans.

According to CTV News, the initial idea for changes to the NPA came from the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA). CTV News discovered that CEPA requested that the government change the “archaic legislation,” which subjected pipelines to a “layer of scrutiny,” under the NPA.

The NDP has been constantly criticizing the decision to revoke the protection of a majority of Canada’s waterways. On the NDP website, MP and environment critic Megan Leslie has vowed to encourage Canada’s “commitment to protect at least 10% of coastal and marine areas by 2020.”

“At the time, I had no idea where the changes to Navigable Waters Act came from,” Leslie told CTV News. “It was never in any documents or even talked about.”

The NDP have continued to spark conversation about the amendments to Bill C-45 and its consequences.

“All we can do right now is make the public known,” said Leslie.

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