Mara Lake.

Access to many Okanagan rivers, lakes threatened

Liberal revision of Navigation Protection Act raises concerns

Access to Canadian rivers and lakes may seem like an obvious right for all Canadians.

But not so according to Ecojustice Canada, the largest legal environment advocacy group in the country.

Their concern dates back to unexpected changes that former prime minister Stephen Harper’s government introduced in 2012 to Canada’s century-old Navigable Waters Protection Act, including renaming it the Navigation Protection Act.

In an omnibus piece of legislation, Harper’s altered legislation ended the federal government’s requirement to carry out environmental assessment studies on lake, water or river use permit applications, and reduced the responsibility of government mandated protection to just some 20 waterways across Canada.

“It was a huge loss in environment protection of our waterways and totally arbitrary at the time. There was no consultation leading up to that decision by the Harper government,” said Joshua Ginsberg, a lawyer with Ecojustive in Ottawa.

“It shifted the burden of protection of our waterways from government to the public. If someone’s right to navigation or use of a lake or river was being obstructed, they would have to sue in court.

“So it was still considered unlawful but now it was up to private citizens, if they could afford it, to enforce those regulations that the federal government had previously been responsible for upholding.”

In the last federal election campaign, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau promised to restore those lost waterway protection measures.

Since being elected, however, the Trudeau regime has gone through a public consultation process that has led to the expected introduction of amended legislation this fall that falls short of what Ginsberg was hoping to see.

“They seem to be doubling down on the scheduling aspect, including now about 100 lakes and 64 rivers across Canada that fall under federal government protection, and vague promises to improve access to protect other navigable waters,” Ginsberg said.

“What we had hoped is we would return to the legislation that had been well-established before Harper amended it, but the Liberals have opted not to go that far at this point.”

Ginsberg says he can’t understand why that is the case, other than industry advocates are pushing to maintain reduced regulation by Ottawa.

Included under the expanded protective schedule would be Okanagan Lake, Kamloops Lake, Shuswap Lake, Little Shuswap Lake, Mara Lake, and Lake Revelstoke.

The lake protection extends to the mouths of all connecting waterways to those lakes.

Local rivers granted protection include the Thompson River, from the South Thompson River to the Fraser River, and the South Thompson River, from Little Shuswap Lake to the Thompson River.

Ginsberg says once tabled in Parliament this fall, the legislation will be referred to committee for further debate prior to final adoption.

“We are waiting at this point to see what will be in it, whether there may still be a change of heart from the government regarding navigable waterway enforcement, and if not there will be one more opportunity to influence those changes during the committee hearings,” Ginsberg said.

“Our waterways, all of them, are the lifeblood of our country. For more than a century there has been effective protective legislation in place and (the Harper government) took that away in one fell swoop. “Trudeau’s government has a chance to set that right, and we still hope it chooses to do so.”

A letter writing campaign this spring had the support of many area residents, including Sharon Bell of West Kelowna.

“We just want to show that many of us still care about protection of our navigational waterways from untethered development,” Bell said.


@BarryGerding
barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

Shuswap Lake.

Just Posted

Heat women advance to Canada West semis

A convincing win in two straight this weekend has Kelowna’s UBCO Heat volleyball team moving on

Kelowna firefighters purchase therapy equipment for kids

The Kelowna Professional Firefighters Charitable Society members have emotional day

Kelowna’s community calendar

A listing of recent events at the Kelowna Capital News online community calendar

Hodge: Winter Olympics provides must see TV

Kelowna columnist Charlie Hodge on the Olympics in PyeongChang

Your Saturday story catch-up

Every Saturday, read our popular stories from the week

President praises nearly 1,800 volunteers at B.C. Games

Ashley Wadhwani sits down with the Kamloops 2018 B.C. Winter Games President Niki Remesz

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Snowfall warning, travel advisory in effect for Coquihalla

Coquihalla Highway between Hope and Merritt to receive 10 to 20 cm of snow Sunday

That’s a wrap: Day 2 of B.C. Games ends with multiple ties in gold, bronze

Vancouver-Coastal Zone 5 continues to lead, so far earning 25 gold, 32 silver and 25 bronze

Police watchdog probes B.C. man’s taser death in alleged parental child abduction

Independent Investigations Office called in after one male dies

Letter: Bravo, Kelowna Community Theatre

Kelowna letter-writer says they were treated first class at the community theatre

PHOTOS: Harnessing diverse abilities on the court at the B.C. Games

Basketball is one of two Special Olympics events at the B.C. Winter Games in Kamloops

B.C. VIEWS: Our not-so-New Democrats don’t rock the boat

Finance Minister Carole James takes the wheel, steers similar course

OLYMPIC ROUNDUP: Canadians all smiles after record medal haul

Team Canada is taking home a record 29 medals from Pyeongchang – 11 gold, eight silver, 10 bronze

Most Read