OTTAWA – Singer-songwriters Sarah Harmer and Leslie Feist joined Gord Downie, lead singer of the Tragically Hip, today to speak out against the Harper Conservatives’ elimination of the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA).
Their voices were joined with water activists and MPs at a press conference held just before the second, 400-plus-page, omnibus budget-implementation bill, C-45, returns to the House of Commons. Buried deep in that bill is the replacement of the 130-year-old NWPA with the Navigation Protection Act.
"This is an assault on our history, our safety, and our basic right to be informed,” stated singer-songwriter Sarah Harmer. “Canadians’ waterways need protection, and the changes to the Navigable Waters Act remove that protection on the majority of our river and lake systems. This puts them and us at grave risk."
“Our Federal Government is relieving itself of its duty to protect the rights of all Canadians to navigate every lake and river in Canada,” said Meredith Brown, Riverkeeper and Executive Director. “Eliminating public consultation and parliamentary review for something as important and Canadian as our public right to access water is a huge mistake.”
“Canadians expect our government to protect nature,” added John Bennett, Executive-Director, Sierra Club Canada. “This government has no mandate to sell out the future for a few dollars today.”
“Killing the NWPA is nothing less than an assault on Canada's natural heritage,” said Independent MP Bruce Hyer (Thunder Bay-Superior North), an avid paddler and fisherman. “It will mean millions of streams, lakes, rivers, and other waterways will lose their protection under the law and can be dammed or in-filled without environmental oversight. It is now open season on spawning grounds, natural aquatic nurseries, as well as creeks and streams teeming with fish and other aquatic life.”
"Just as they did with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Fisheries Act, the Harper Conservatives are removing another legal barrier to their development-at-all-costs agenda,” stated Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands. “They are counting on Canadians being overwhelmed by the enormous Bill C-45 and not noticing the elimination of the NWPA, but I'm sure cottagers, municipalities, the tourism industry, and others will soon be making their opposition to the Navigation Protection Act known."
In statements read out at the press conference, Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip noted: “… Our claim to Canada's rivers is older than the country itself. For the last four years, the government has been trying to find a way to pry that claim from the hands of all citizens and reserve it for a select few. If this new law passes, they finally get their wish …”
Leslie Feist, singer-songwriter warned: “ … If we lose the protection of the NWPA, we lose our opportunity to study ungoverned and unaccountable development's possible impacts to fish, wildlife, communities, and lives. It leaves our waters open to exploitation by the first person to get there with a backhoe.”
Mark Mattson, President & Lake Ontario Waterkeeper: ”… By removing "water" from the "Navigable Waters Protection Act", the government is removing all meaning from one of our oldest laws. I don't think they truly understand the repercussions their actions will have. People will be hurt out there.”