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
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