Regarding MP Jim Hillyer's defense of Bill C-45 and of the changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA)

A shorter version was published in the Lethbridge Herald on Sunday, 2013-01-13.

Regarding MP Jim Hillyer's defence of Bill C-45 and of the changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) (Herald, January 4):

Some people may take what Mr. Hillyer said as reassuring: "[N]othing in the Act in any way compromises federal, provincial or territorial environmental laws" which is essentially just a repeat of what Steven Fletcher, Minister of State for Transport, said in the House of Commons on October 22: “[The NWPA] has always been and remains about navigation and navigation only.” The act isn’t, and has never been, Fletcher asserted, about “environmental protection.” Mr. Hillyer and Steven Fletcher are wrong.

The NDP had asked Fletcher why Bill C-45 would mean tens of thousands of lakes and rivers will no longer be covered by the NWPA, leaving protection for just 97 lakes, 62 rivers and the three oceans. Strangely, the vast majority of protected bodies of water are in Conservative MPs' ridings, although not ones in the Lethbridge riding. Rivers on the route for the Northern Gateway? Not protected.

Mr. Hillyer seems to think it's okay to do away with protection under the NWPA, because other federal legislation "remains in force to protect the environment." He must think we're stupid. His government only last March gutted environmental protection--gone is protection for thousands of species of fish; now only fish that are of economic, cultural, or ecological value are protected. Google "protection for fish Harper" and see what you find. Further, only last spring, this government laid off nearly all (75) of the DFO scientists studying marine toxicology across Canada including nine marine biologists specializing in marine toxicology.

First Nations are rightly upset about the loss of environmental protection because they are the ones opposing the Northern Gateway pipeline, etc. The NWPA used to automatically require an environmental assessment and federal approval when a bridge, dam, OR PIPELINE, was proposed. No longer.

There's a direct local connection: The Oldman Dam controversy led to a Supreme Court decision in which Justice Gérard La Forest said, “Environmental impact assessment is, in its simplest form, a planning tool that is now generally regarded as an integral component of sound decision-making.” How things have changed.

Space limitations allow me to comment on only one item addressed by Mr. Hillyer. To learn about the other concerns of First Nations, Google “Harper government bills that sparked Idle No More”. Or go to the Files Folder on the Idle No More Official Website on Facebook.

Mark Sandilands