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                                                                                    Celebrating Sustainability  

                                                                                                  Sustainable Eastern Ontario Edition - Winter 2015-2016

Scroll down for highlights!
Left to right: Abduhalli Ali, Mavis Finnamore, Magda Ibrihim at a planning meeting in Herongate, November 17, 2015.
 Left to right: Abduhalli Ali, Mavis Finnamore, Magda Ibrihim at an ACORN Ottawa planning meeting in Herongate, November 17, 2015.

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..

A Retrospective 50-Year Memory Tour of Western National Parks and Other Sites 1964 and 2014
by Paul and Marilyn Koch
In 1964, Paul and Marilyn Koch took a 10-week camping trip through National Parks and other locations in both Canada & the USA. The trip covered three Canadian Provinces and 33 US States. 
In September 2014, armed with photographs from the original trip, they took a retrospective journey in the reverse direction through the Western portion of the trip with the intent of photographing a number of locations and sites as closely as possible to the original photos. This document shows the comparative results. Month of the year--July vs. September--weather, and time of day, all had an impact on many of the pictures but overall with a few exceptions things looked much the same. 

Athabasca Glacier and the Columbia Icefields 

The shocking but not surprising change in the Athabasca Glacier was by far the largest and most meaningful change in natural systems seen on the trip. The first two pictures (shown here), taken from approximately the same location, exaggerate somewhat the distance by which the toe of the glacier has receded, since the toe is now obscured by the large gravel hill that has been exposed. The toe of the glacier in 1964 was at the edge of the lake to the right, close to where a parking lot for glacier access is now located. 
Athabasca Glacier as seen in 1964.
Athabasca Glacier as seen in 2014. Photos courtesy Paul and Marilyn Koch.
The following pictures (not shown) give a more detailed view of the glacier's loss. The bridge in the first picture is at the front of the parking lot as you start to hike to the glacier. About half way up the hill was a marker showing where the toe of the glacier was in 1982. 
In the second picture taken at the top of the hill, you can see that it is still a significant way to the glacier, which is partially hidden--about as far again as the distance back to the parking lot. The third picture shows the current toe of the glacier to the left and the gravel hill that partially hides the glacier to the right. 
Wikipedia indicates that the Athabasca Glacier has retreated approximately 1.5 kilometres in the last century and the rate of retreat has accelerated since 1995. 
The big question remains: How much of that change is due to the burning of fossil fuels and how much simply to natural causes? No one really knows, but it does speak to the need to cut our fossil fuel-based energy consumption in every way possible.
[PERC would like to extend a sincere "thank you" to Paul Koch for permission to publish this excerpt of his Memory Tour. This excerpt has been edited for length.] 

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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.