The ecumenical social justice organization Kairos suggests that Canadians observe Earth Day today by joining its campaign to protect Canadian waters and build right relations with aboriginal people.
A petition asks MPs to support repealing parts of two omnibus pieces of legislation, Bills C-38 and C-45, passed last year, which Kairos argues have changed more than 100 federal laws without adequate consultation with aboriginal peoples. That, according to information on the Kairos website, “undermines not only the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent as required by the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (endorsed by Canada in November, 2010) but also section 35 of The Constitution Act (1982).” The bills were a catalyst for the Idle No More protests that swept across Canada last year.
Kairos says the new legislation shortened environmental assessment processes and made significant changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA). Although the 1882 act was originally designed to ease navigation through logging, bridge-building and other types of industrial development, it has also “served as a de facto environmental check on such structures and undertakings.” According to Kairos, “It has been described as one of Canada’s oldest pieces of environmental legislation.”
With the enactment of Bill C-45, the NWPA became the much narrower Navigation Protection Act (NPA), which covers a short list of three oceans, 97 lakes and portions of 62 rivers, said Kairos. Another NGO, Ecojustice, calculates that “Canada contains at least 32,000 ‘major lakes’ and 2.25 million rivers, which means that more than 99% of Canada’s lakes and rivers, many of them in traditional and resource-rich areas, will be excluded from the environmental assessment that the NWPA once demanded.”
“These changes, created in part to ease the way for resource extraction, are a challenge not just to the sacredness of Creation,” the statement from Kairos said. “They also challenge our relationships with Indigenous peoples, on whose traditional territories these projects are being imposed.”
Henriette Thompson, public witness co-ordinator for social justice for the Anglican Church of Canada, said this is an issue most Canadians can relate to. “Water is so precious to us on a daily basis. We drink it, cook with it and wash with it. Since many of us have direct experience or knowledge of contaminated wells, oil and chemical spills, and mercury in the fish on our dinner plates-we understand the high stakes in the legal protection of waters. When the law is weakened we know that all beings who live near watersheds will suffer in particular, and we all will bear the effects in ways we often can’t anticipate. ”
More information is available at Kairos’ Our Waters, Our Life page.