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 Living Lightly

  EnviroCentre Edition - Spring 2016

Scroll down for highlights!
Catherine Mageau-Walker (SustainLowertown Coordinator), Annie Mercier (LCRC Community Developper), Mathieu Fleury and Angela Palma Herriot at a Good Food Market in Lowertown Credit: Photo courtesy of SustainLowertown

Catherine Mageau-Walker (SustainLowertown Coordinator), Annie Mercier (LCRC Community Developper), Mathieu Fleury and Angela Palma Herriot at a Good Food Market in Lowertown.
Photo courtesy of SustainLowertown

Bill Ends Protection for Canadian Waterways


The federal government will gut the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) with the omnibus bill C-45, which changes more than 40 existing Acts. Many believe the bill is leading toward the Northern Gateway Pipeline approval and the dismantling of environmental protection in Canada. 

Introduced in 1882, the NWPA is one of Canada's oldest pieces of legislation. It ensures that activities that could potentially hinder navigation will trigger an environmental assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. 

These types of environmental assessments are what make this piece of legislation important. The NWPA has been foundational in environmental law for generations. 

People monitoring waterways across Ontario are upset by the changes being made to the NWPA within the omnibus bill. 

More than 99% of all Canadian rivers and lakes will be unprotected, and there will no longer be requirements to apply to governments for many development approvals. 

This means that individuals investing in development projects do not necessarily need to notify the government when they are building things that interfere with water navigation. This could lead to further obstructions and even to toxic chemicals being released into waterways. 

The NWPA was never discussed in the public forum, when Canadian citizens could have had a chance to vote on it, or even to contemplate how the changes would influence environmental protection. 

   A goose crosses the river. Photo: Richard F. Charles

NDP Member of Parliament Megan Leslie spoke in the House of Commons: "Mr. Speaker, members opposite must be getting dizzy from all the spin around their talking points on the Navigable Waters Protection Act," she said. "First, they claimed that the changes had nothing to do with environment. They were just reducing red tape for cottagers. However, even Conservatives knew that this law actually did have a role in environmental protection, although they did try to deny it by rewriting websites, and history."

Leslie presented evidence of partisan geography, showing that, in fact, Conservative MPs hold the majority of ridings around the majority of lakes which retain federal protection under the government's proposed changes. 

An Ottawa Citizen analysis showed the changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act will not affect 90% of lakes in Conservative territory. 

For instance, in Conservative MP Tony Clement's riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka, more than 10 lakes will retain federal government protection once the government removes protection from thousands of other bodies of water across the nation. 

Lake Rosseau, in Muskoka--where business elites, NHL superstars, and celebrities have homes--will not be affected by this bill. 

"Last night the truth was exposed because these changes were actually politically driven," Leslie reported. "Eighty-nine per cent of the protected lakes and rivers are found in Conservative ridings, so whoever decided what bodies of water were protected sure seemed to have a riding map handy. Canadians deserve better than Conservative preferential treatment of their friends. Why are the Conservatives making environmental protection a privilege of the few?"

The Conservatives disputed this argument by stating that their MPs normally hold more rural seats, and that New Democrats and Liberals normally hold more seats in urban and suburban districts, which is why Conservative ridings understandably have more lakes and waterways. 

Steven Fletcher, the Conservative Minister of State for transport, responded to a question posed by the NDP's MP Peggy Nash regarding the federal government's gutting of the NWPA. Fletcher suggested that Nash and many others do not understand what this law really entails. 

"The Navigable Waters Protection Act has always been and remains about navigation and navigation only," Fletcher said. "What the act isn't about, and has never been about, is environmental protection."

The Conservatives argued that changes to the Act are not related to environmental protection and are designed to maneuver through bureaucratic red tape, which stunts development and economic growth. 

But companies such as Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), the largest Canadian recreational and outdoor supply company, have warned the federal government of the negative economic consequences that could follow this dismantling of the NWPA. 

MEC CEO David Labistour told federal Senators that outdoor recreation is a growing industry, establishing a minimum of six million jobs. Changes to the NWPA will determine whether people are still able to use waterways for outdoor activities. 

In November, artists and environmental activists joined to oppose NWPA changes. Many said that the Harper government's second omnibus bill is perceived as not necessarily "eliminating the red tape," but actually eliminating engaged citizens from the discussion about health, safety and the rights of Aboriginal communities. 

Green Party Representative Elizabeth May plans to introduce amendments to the bill during the report stage. 

She said elements of the bill regarding waterways are not budget measures, and should not have been included in the omnibus budget bill, further stating that the changes being made have not been properly reviewed. 

May told CNC News, "I don't think any Canadian would have ever imagined--even the people who voted Conservative--that they would propose to eliminate the navigation protections over 99.5% of the waterways in Canada. It's hard to put into words how devastating this is. The entire framework of environmental laws is being systematically destroyed in Canada."


Ryan Moore writes about social and environmental issues.



In this issue..

Growing Food and Community in Lowertown East

Catherine Mageau-Walker, Program Coordinator, Sustain Lowertown

Sustain Your Community Logo

Any gardener or farmer can tell you that there is a healing and nourishing quality in growing your own food – an intimate connection that sprouts between you and the earth, a connection that only deepens, when you plant those seeds with others. A pride and thrill flourishes in working together to cultivate and watch something go from seed to something that appears on your plate. And that connection continues to grow when you can sit down together to share in that bounty.


Building raised beds for the Beausoleil Community Garden. Photo courtesy of SustainLowertown

From a seed, a community can grow.

And that growth is happening in the community of Lowertown with three separate gardening projects underway:

  1. The Beausoleil Community Garden, funded by EnviroCentre’s Sustain Your Community project with support from Ottawa Community Housing (OCH), Lowertown Community Resource Centre (LCRC) and volunteers from the community, is located in the greenspace behind 25 OCH townhomes. With a goal of shared learning and access to healthy fresh food, five raised beds were created last fall so that residents would be able to plant, tend and harvest food together.

Lowertown_Beausoleil garden
Beausoleil Community Garden. Photo courtesy of SustainLowertown

  1. The Angel Square Community Garden grew out of an increased demand within the community for more raised beds after the Lowertown Community Garden had reached capacity. Built in the Fall of 2014 through the support of Just Food Community Garden Fund, LCRC and community volunteers, the garden is now self-sustaining with an active volunteer Steering Committee and is a part of the Community Garden Network of Ottawa, an information and resource-sharing network that supports the sustainable development of community gardens within the City. With 12 raised beds for growing vegetables, berries and edible flowers, the garden is an accessible, multicultural community garden that the residents of Lowertown East can enjoy.

Lowertown_Angel Square Garden
Angel Square Community Garden. Photo courtesy of SustainLowertown

  1. The Container Gardening Project, originally funded through the Ontario Trillium Foundation, was started with a goal of providing residents with the tools, skills and support to grow their own fresh produce regardless of their income, living space or agricultural knowledge. Each season starts with a workshop where participants assemble their buckets, fill them and chose their seedlings. Depending on their living space they can take their containers home to grow on balconies or porches, or they can leave them around the Lowertown Community Resource Centre’s community garden plots, where the project is run. Last year 90 buckets were distributed to families and individuals in the community.

All of these projects came from a seed – an idea of bringing not only food to a community but to build it at the same time. The Angel Square Garden and the Container Gardening Project, for example, are now managed by their own independent community-run steering committees. They are planning a joint seed swapping activity this spring and collaborating at work bees and when you walk by Angel Square, there are people conversing or sitting on the bench.

Building raised beds for the Beausoleil Community Garden. Photo courtesy of SustainLowertown

As one volunteer-action committee member states, “Community Gardens are important because they bring together all types of people. Growers, planers, kids, recent immigrants, seniors etc… Angel Square has become a bit of a meeting place and the kind of open, functional and beautiful place where neighbors cross paths, chit-chat and help one another”.

From a seed, a community continues to grow….

Lowertown_Steve Nansekivell his garden
Steve Nansekivell putting his garden to rest after a productive season (Angel Square Garden). Photo courtesy of SustainLowertown

Although there has been a lot of work done on each of these three projects with many successes along the way, there is still a lot of work to be done – not just on these projects, but future ones, such as the search for a suitable space for another community garden in Lowertown West.

To learn more, to get involved or to be connected to the right person for the right project, please contact

PEN Spring 2016 Simple

Want more PEN?

Look for the full print edition at community centres and select retailers throughout the Ottawa area.

The PERC site features highlights from the current edition. PDF versions of the full PEN will be available in the archives after the current edition is off the stands.


The PERC thanks the above organizations for their support.

Thank you to Sustainable Eastern Ontario, the Community Foundation of Ottawa, and the Ontario Trillium Foundation for sponsoring the Winter 2015-2016 edition of the PEN.


Viewpoints expressed should not be taken to represent the opinions of the Ottawa Peace and Environment Resource Centre, the Peace and Environment News, or our supporters. The PEN does not recommend, approve or endorse any of the advertisers, products or services printed in the PEN or referred to on the PERC website. Health-related information printed in the PEN or online is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified and licensed health care provider. The PERC and PEN are not responsible for the content on any external website links.