Federal laws protecting Canadian waters under threat

Federal laws protecting Canadian waters under threat

Federal laws protecting Canadian waters under threat


It has been about a year since the federal government introduced Bills C-38 and C-45 which have weakened Canada’s environmental laws.

Among other things, Bill C-38 contained significant changes to the Fisheries Act.  Implementation of these changes means that the level of protection for Canadian fisheries will be drastically reduced.  The longstanding prohibition against the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of any fish habitat will be removed.

In its place will be a weaker prohibition against activities that result in serious harm to fish that are part of a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fishery, or to fish that support such a fishery.  The definition of “serious harm to fish” is “the death of fish or any permanent alteration to, or destruction of, fish habitat”.

Another key piece of federal legislation for protecting Canadian waters will be changed by Bill C-45.   The Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) will be renamed the Navigation Protection Act (NPA) which apparently reflects the government’s intention to remove the environmental dimension of protecting Canada’s navigable waters.

The main role of the NWPA has been to regulate the construction of works in, on, over, under, through or across any navigable waters.  However, this role will be seriously curtailed by Bill C-45 because the prohibition against constructing works in, on, over, under, through or across navigable waters will be limited to only those navigable waters included in the schedule to the NPA.  The schedule includes 3 oceans, 97 lakes and portions of 62 rivers. This represents a very small portion of the total lakes and rivers in Canada.

While these changes to the Fisheries Act and the NWPA have been approved by Parliament, they have not yet been declared in force.  These changes will be not take effect until an order-in-council has been issued by the federal Cabinet.

If you want to help stop these changes from becoming law, check out the NO HABITAT=NO FISH campaign on the envirolawsmatter.ca website.  The website includes an on-line petition for saving Canada’s environmental laws.




The Environmental Law Centre (ELC) has been seeking strong and effective environmental laws since it was founded in 1982. The ELC is dedicated to providing credible, comprehensive and objective legal information regarding natural resources, energy and environmental law, policy and regulation in Alberta. The ELC’s mission is to educate and champion for strong laws and rights so all Albertans can enjoy clean water, clean air and a healthy environment. Our vision is a society where laws secure an environment that sustains current and future generations.

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  • Patrick
    Posted at 23:16h, 20 October Reply

    All water laws need to change in Canada! I worked in an anodize line for 5 years and I can’t understand why we let people do that to our water. I’m now doing a different job because I just can’t support that….at all.

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