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The Misconceptions About Bill C45 That Sparked Idle No More – Part 2: Navigable Waters

“Idle No More began with 4 ladies; Nina Wilson, Sylvia McAdam, Jessica Gordon & Sheelah McLean who felt it was urgent to act on current and upcoming legislation that not only affects our First Nations people but the rest of Canada’s citizens, lands and waters.

“The focus is on grassroots voices, treaty and sovereignty; it began in the early part of October when discussing Bill C 45.  All 4 women knew that this was a time to act, as this bill and other proposed legislation would affect not only Indigenous people but also the lands, water and the rest of Canada.”

– from the Idle No More website


A few who read Part 1 in the series on what sparked the Idle No More movement challenged that it had anything to do with the federal government’s Bill C45. As can be seen in the above passage taken from the Idle No More website, they are quite simply wrong.

Bill C45 and the misinformation about its amendments to both the Indian Act and the Navigable Waters Act were very much at the centre of concern for the movement’s founders.

It’s not surprising considering the amount of deliberate misinformation being promoted by those with an agenda.

Some who criticized the basis  of yesterday’s article had never bothered to look beyond anything that tended to support what they already believed and certainly had never actually read the legislation or its amendments. Some were so careless they didn’t even get the name of the author of the series correct which calls into question their ability to actually absorb what they read.

The sources for Ms Tupper’s article were challenged but no reliable sources for contrary opinion were offered in return by most of those doing the challenging. Ms Tupper used the actual legislation as her source along with information found on the Idle No More website. In my previous two articles, I’ve used audited band financial statements and the Indian Act.

Only two critics offered alternative sources. One was a Vancouver Sun news article that took all of its information from an AFN media release and the other said he got his information from CSPAN.

It’s small wonder there is so much misunderstanding when so little effort is spent getting informed and in keeping an open mind until fully informed.

Today: Part 2 in the series.


Misconceptions That Sparked Idle No More – Part 2: Bill C45 Navigable Water

By Peggy Tupper


This is the second of my three part series on the misconceptions and misinformation about Bill C45 that helped to spark the Idle No More movement.  Part 1 dealt with changes to the Indian Act that were made at the request of First Nations bands in British Columbia.

As stated on the Idle No More website, many are concerned about the amendments to the Navigable Water Protection Act that are included in Bill C45 because they believe it strips environmental protections from thousands of lakes and rivers.

It’s not surprising that so many believe that, there seems to be a great deal of misinformation that has been published in the media and tweeted and messaged across social media. The main accusations appear to be:

– Hundreds of lakes and rivers will no longer be protected.
– Corporations will build bridges and dams and pipelines on our waterways.
– The earth as we know it will end.  Protect our water.
– There must be consultation.  Treaties have been broken“ 

If the bill that was amended were called the Navigation Protection Act, there would not likely be an outcry as I suspect no one would care.   Because the original legislation included the words “water” and “protection” many seem to be of the opinion that it has something to do with protecting the environment. They’re wrong. It is an act that is strictly about navigation on waterways in Canada.

The act protects the rights of commercial and recreational boaters to the unimpeded access through waterways.  The act does not protect the waterways; it protects the right to navigate through them. The Environmental Protection Act protects the waterways themselves.

When the NWPA was written, all lakes, rivers and streams that could be navigated by a vessel were made part of the legislation; this was defined as  all watercraft, large and small including things like canoes.  Any shoreline change to any navigable waterway required a federal permit to build a boathouse or dock to ensure that no such structure would impede the flow of watercraft.

It had nothing to do with protecting the natural environment, the legislation is solely written to protect navigation on Canadian waterways.

The most minor change on a little used river required a federal permit in addition to environmental assessments, provincial approvals, local building permits and all the other permits from many different governing bodies that our society requires when a property owner wants to do anything.  Every level of government including, in many cases, conservation authorities would often be involved.

The federal government came to the conclusion that a permit for a cottage dock or boathouse on little used waterways should not require a federal permit and determined to remove the requirement from certain waterways.

To determine which, all waterways were first divided into two categories.  One category is for waterways that have significant vessel traffic and which interconnect to other lakes and waterways. They include systems like the Great Lakes, the Trent Canal, the three large lakes in Muskoka, The Rideau Canal system and many other waterways in Canada that people use commercially, as well as, for pleasure boating.  These are the ‘protected’ waterways also called Category 1.

The second category is comprised of small lakes that do not connect to other lakes, seldom used rivers or portions thereof and other waterways that for a variety of reasons have little vessel traffic.  These are the ‘unprotected’ waterways that are labeled Category 2.

The changes to the Navigable Water Protection Act included in Bill C45 removes the requirement for a federal permit for small shoreline projects like docks and boathouses on Category 2 waters.

That’s it. That’s all it does. It removes a requirement for yet one more permit to build things like a dock in Category 2 waterways. It does not remove federal or provincial environmental protection legislation nor does it strip municipal or First Nations’ band authorities to approve or disapprove building permits.

It does not change legislation restrictions on bridges and other major projects with the exception of small pedestrian bridges which it leaves to the discretion of local authorities like band councils and municipalities.

If the government had used the terms category 1 and 2 instead of “protected“ and “unprotected” perhaps there wouldn’t be the level of misinformed outrage in some quarters.   All category 2 waterways continue to be protected by all provincial and federal environmental legislation and still require local permits and approvals by other governing bodies, which includes First Nations authorities on waters within their lands for changes to the shoreline. They simply no longer require federal permits for small projects.

Because the amendment is to a piece of federal legislation and was only about removing a federal permit requirement there was clearly no need to consult with the provinces, municipalities or First Nations bands.

It is unfortunate that even the simplest amendments to dated legislation are too often twisted to accommodate the political agendas of some. The opposition parties were opposed to the omnibus bill and deliberately exaggerated many of its provisions in an attempt to give Canadians the impression that the Conservative government was using  it to make major legislative changes it might not otherwise be able to achieve if the legislation was introduced individually. It was a deliberate misrepresentation that plays of the suspicions of people and which served no useful purpose other than to try and use misinformation in an attempt to gain support for their political agenda.

Others, including academics, environmentalists and the AFN jumped on the bandwagon based more on their anti-Conservative bias than their actual knowledge of what the bill contained. The Chiefs encouraged the belief that the amendments to the Indian Act and the NWPA were a threat to both the sovereignty of First Nations and to the environment, none of which is true. Idle No More, sprang in part from that misunderstanding. The Chiefs have attempted to co-opt the movement but Idle No More is backing away the actions called for by the Chiefs.

Idle No More released a statement on their website which clearly shows that it has begun to distance itself from the leadership of the First Nations.

“The Chiefs have called for action and anyone who chooses can join with them, however this is not part of the Idle No More movement as the vision of this grassroots movement does not coincide with the visions of the Leadership,

The statement went on to say that they had been made aware that the aboriginal leadership had been calling for action in the name of of the movement after having met with its founders and leaders; a claim Idle No More states is false.

The issues facing First Nations’ communities are real and they are serious; too serious to have some play politics with them. While Idle No More’s primary focus is on aboriginal issues, it clearly is connected with issues that affect all Canadians.  Those who support Idle No More don’t do them or the rest of Canada any favours by taking their lead from those who distort the truth rather than informing themselves independently.

Quite simply, you can’t build truth out of lies.

If people are serious about bringing about real change for the better, it starts with dealing with the truth and that starts with putting aside the petty polarization and biases of left vs. right, aboriginal vs. non-aboriginal and start seeing the issues we face in this country, including on reserves, as human issues. Allowing those like Canada’s opposition parties, the media and the AFN to co-opt the message and the agenda with misinformation only leads to mistrust and  misunderstandings that lead to pointless and unproductive confrontations.

Idle No More is a movement that is trying to draw awareness to its issues at a grass roots level. If they are to be successful, it will mean that everyone, not just those directly involved in their movement needs to be better informed. Anything less will mean the work of Idle No More, like so often has happened to others like it in the past,  will most likely be in vain.


Tomorrow,  Part 3 – The Theresa Spence Hunger Strike



Where Is The Money Going On First Nations Reserves?


Some First Nations’ Financial Statements Generate More Questions Than Answers


The Misconceptions In Bill C45 That Sparked ‘Idle No More’ – Part One: Reserve Lands


© 2012 Maggie’s Bear
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  • Glen Holmgren

    Thank you for shedding much needed light on a situation that was festering in the shadows. Perhaps some good will come out of all the hysterics and confusion and controversy if all the readers of the various articles, blogs & comments realize that though some of the controversy regarding the NWPA was caused by a lack of, or misinformation, there are real issues that need to be dealt with in the way Canada as a nation deals with our First Nations Brothers & Sisters. We need to start from scratch and evaluate every federal, provincial & municipal institution for their reason for existence, mission, methods, accountability & effectiveness and be prepared to deal with some sacred cows on BOTH sides of all the issues – there are obvious changes that need to be made moving forward and merely throwing (more) money at something to salve the collective conscience of white (non-native) Canada is NOT good enough.

    These are human beings and we look right through them and blame the victims of generations of systemic misunderstanding, arrogance, cultural assimilation, racism, mismanagement & fear, instead of taking a long, hard look in the mirror first … Christians, I’m looking at you! Save your indignation, I’m one too and I don’t think Jesus is very happy with our practical application of His teachings. We have much to learn & do before we should be so ignorantly arrogant as to chastise other countries for their internal dealings, while we have yet to clean up our own house. Excuses don’t cut it people, we need good old fashioned confession, repentance and restorative action.

    We can not duck our obligations and merely blame the Organized Churches and denominational hierarchies either – this must start as a grass roots movement one to one, face to face, within our neighbourhoods and communities. Anything less makes a mockery of our alleged understanding of, commitment to and evidence of The Gospel of The Grace of God.

    Peggy & The Bear, Keep up the great work on spreading the truth without getting caught up in the polemics and politics! Godspeed.

  • http://mightyturk@wordpress.com Bob Turcotte

    Boats and docks the extent of the scope of the now defunct Navigable Waters Act? Chief Justice Antonio Lamer and seven other distinguished judges begged to disagree with Peggy Tupper’s dismissive interpretation in 1992. They were not, unless I’m wrong, purveyors of ignorant hyperbole.


    • http://abearsrant.com thebear

      Your analysis would stand if it were not for the fact that The Environmental Assessment Act was enacted in 2007 to address the issues raised in the ruling along with strengthening and providing in more detailed protection for the environment and all waterways. This includes all waters not just Category 1. It also covers pipelines, bridges, dams and a wide range of projects large and small that could have a direct or indirect impact on the environment including land, water, game, fisheries. It also provided strengthened protection to address aboriginal concerns including:

      – health and socio-economic conditions;
      – physical and cultural heritage;
      – current use of land and resources for traditional purposes; or
      – structures, sites or things that are of historical, archaeological, paleontological or architectural significance.

      Whatever weak environmental protection that was ruled to be implied by common law under the NWPA was replaced by the EPA. Having two permits issued for the same thing when only one is actually based on an environmental assessment seems a bit like overkill to me.

      At what point does it become too much government?

      The reaction to the amendment to the NWPA is overkill based on ignoring other legislation that is now in place to strengthen what it once was the only protection we had. I still don’t see a need for a federal NWPA permit on Category 2 lands when the EPA provides the stringent review and analysis to protect our waters and our environment.

      • http://mightyturk@wordpress.com Bob Turcotte

        If the current Environmental Assessment Act is sufficient to protect all lakes and rivers, why did the government deem it necessary to include a small list of both key and posh waterways in the new Navigation Protection Act for special attention? Does navigation not matter on Category Two waterways? This Government is perpetrating a divisive, semantic and atomistic attack on the vast majority of Canada’s water.

  • http://ianferrier.com Ian Ferrier

    A core problem this blog doesn’t address is what happens because the current government throws 30 or 40 disparate issues into the same piece of legislation, then tries to pass it calling it a budget bill. Then wonders why everyone gets confused at a hydra with so many heads.

    The confusion could easily be remedied. If you want to legislate about waterways, legislate about waterways. Then everybody can see and clearly understand what you’re doing, and see the worth of it or oppose it. Don’t throw it and 40 other types of legislation into one seething mass of print simply because you have the majority to pass it. Because if you do you get into messes like this one.

  • Gabby in QC

    “Idle No More began with 4 ladies; Nina Wilson, Sylvia McAdam, Jessica Gordon & Sheelah McLean …”
    The four women mentioned above are apparently the ones who started the movement yet Pam Palmater, who ran for the leadership of the AFN but lost to Shawn Atleo, has become the prominent spokesperson for the Idle No More movement. She was a guest on the Jan. 2 edition of the CBC’s Power & Politics, where it was implied she doesn’t trust the AFN leadership to advance the aboriginal cause.

    She apparently is also trying to spread the Idle No More movement beyond Canada’s borders.
    http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/first-nations-activists-message-spreads-to-us-185398572.html [January 2, 2013 edition]
    “… The aboriginal movement known as Idle No More continued to gain strength beyond Canada’s borders on Tuesday as activists embarked on a public relations blitz in the United States.
    Pamela Palmater, one of the leaders of the movement [my highlighting], travelled to Washington, D.C., to give interviews to the U.S. press. She said the goal of the media campaign was to raise awareness internationally and force Prime Minister Stephen Harper to act. …”

    I don’t know … but is there a power struggle between Palmater & Atleo?

  • dmorris

    Thank you,again,Peggy Tupper,for Part two of this post,I eagerly anticipate reading part three soon.

    It’s ironic that the “Idle no more” movement was started by Native women, but has been hijacked by the Indian politicians,mostly male,who have worked hard to keep women on Reserves subjugated and without the same rights as men.

  • Garrett Smith

    Excellent article! I appreciate a middle of the road approach and unbiased writing with respect to today’s issues.
    Best Regards.

  • http://www.cruxofthematterblog.wordpress.com Sandy

    Many thanks Peggy. Well done! I look forward to your third post.

    I hope you decide to start your own blog. If you do, there are no doubt many who would help you out. If you ever decide to try the free wordpress.com server, just pop me a Contact Form message at Crux of the Matter and I can either help you set it up or give you some advice.

    • Gordon

      this IS a blog and by the looks of things Peggy’s doing very well. Best kept secret in the blog world.

      • http://www.cruxofthematterblog.wordpress.com Sandy

        This is not Peggy’s blog. Maggie’s Bear is posting her three articles for her. Thus my offer.

        • Gordon

          I’d advise both Peggy and Maggie’s Bear to just keep doing what they’re doing because it’s working very well for both of them. This blog is very confident and inviting. Sorry but am just not a fan of other blogs. We’ve been dropping in here and known about this blog for a while. Great that you and your blog followers are just catching on.

  • Bruce

    When I see the usual suspects (from both sides of the border) unions, the rent a crowd protestors, Occupy movement, environmentalists, one has to wonder about how much the US based environmental foundations and unions are involved in this in financial contribution terms?

  • Martin

    Thanks for clearing this up. I could never fathom why native activists would object to less federal control of inland waterways, one would expect the opposite. But then, looking for logic in some of these protests is like searching for dandelions in Dec.

    • http://abearsrant.com thebear

      Suspicion arises out of misinformation and a lot of misinformation has been spread around over the years. It was to clarify some of the misinformation about the amendments in Bill C45 that will hopefully reduce some of that suspicion.

  • Gordon

    Beautifully written posts and a refreshing blog indeed. What turns me off most blogs are horrible essays, or chattering classes who basically do what awful media does. Too often no one actually does the legwork and reads the truth.

    That said, I have my doubts as to whether every day Canadians believe media spin any more. I wager that most are quite fed up.

  • Richard Garrett

    Love, love, LOVE these last two posts!!! I have been speaking out against the lies that formulated this movement and have shared these articles on my Facebook page. On behalf of myself and several friends, thank you Peggy Tupper! It’s refreshing to read something that is otherwise unavailable in mainstream media that provides a rational explanation for these outrageous protests. Thanks again!

    • http://abearsrant.com thebear

      Actually, for a change, the mainstream media are starting to do their job. Their have been critical articles in the National Post and the Ottawa Citizen as well as a fairly substantive and accurate piece in the Globe and Mail. The originators of the Idle No More movement are well-intentioned. it is the misinformation that is promoted by others that is the problem. One misrepresentation leads to another until the entire thing becomes a house of cards. There are real issues to be addressed and both Peggy and I believe that the Idle No More movement is sincere in their desire to address them. We just don’t accept the misinformation which is being bandied about to meet other agendas.

      • Gabby in QC

        The Idle No More movement may indeed be well-intentioned … but there are some strange travelling companions and some rather belligerent rethoric used by some in the movement.

        For example, there’s a couple of videos here http://canadiansituations.wordpress.com/tag/idle-no-more-alberta-tanya-kappo/ that are questionable, IMO. One is called “Pale people of pale character” and another features a reporter for Press TV who according to the National Post’s Jonathan Kay is a “truther” espousing various conspiracy theories. Google the NP article by Jonathan Kay: “Meet Joshua Blakeney, the Iran-sponsored ‘reporter’ spinning conspiracism about abducted aboriginals”

        Regardless … Ms. Tupper is doing a great job in presenting some facts to counter the movement’s claims. I may be wrong, but the government should have been doing the same kind of factual presentation early on in this conflict, rather than remaining silent.

        • http://abearsrant.com thebear

          Press TV is a news organ of the Iranian government.