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December 10th, 2009
Are Canadian waterways subject to public rights?
The Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) has existed since 1882 and is one of the oldest pieces of legislation in Canada. Public common law rights to navigate water bodies have existed for over a thousand years, and have been adopted into Canadian common law. The NWPA provides a process for interfering with public law rights to navigation. In Canada a water body is “navigable” if it can be traversed by a small boat or vessel such as a canoe or if it can be used to float logs.
Projects that could interfere with navigation, such as bridges and dredging, have historically been required to prepare an environmental assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. The role of the NWPA as a “trigger” for environmental assessments has made it a significant piece of environmental legislation for many years.