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Becky is involved with many environmental causes. She is currently helping the Canadian Rivers Network concerning the Navigable Waters Protection Act
Becky Mason - Environmental Notes


February 9, 2009 elimination of our Canadian Navigation rights update.

Comments from the Canadian Rivers Network

Basically, the government has included its proposed changes to the NWPA in the Budget Implementation Act (C-10).

What we were expecting to see and were waiting for, was a narrowing of the definition of navigable waters under the act, that would exempt a large number smaller rivers from the provisions of the act, and the introduction of types of works that would be exempt from the act.

What the government has done is much worse.

Instead of introducing those concepts into the NWPA, the proposed changes would give the Minister complete discretion to determine whether a waterway is navigable and whether any work can be exempt from the act. The proposed changes also give the Minister complete discretion to change the criteria used to assess navigability or the types of works that might be exempt.


We expected that we were going to have to fight to retain navigation rights on small rivers and streams in Canada.

But it looks like what is at risk the the very existence of a public right of navigation.

The changes proposed to the NWPA in C-10 represent the elimination of the public right of navigation in Canada, on ALL WATERWAYS.

The new NWPA turn navigation from a PUBLIC RIGHT into a Ministerial discretion.


For more information see the Canadian Rivers Network website:


The Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) is going to be eliminated quietly unless we demand to be heard.

Help stop the initiative of the federal government to gut the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) and eliminate navigation rights on thousands of waterways across Canada.

The Threat:

Just this past Friday afternoon (Feb.6/09), under the guise of the 2009 Budget Implementation Act, the federal government has introduced harmful amendments to the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) that will have negative impacts on both navigation and the environment.

I'm am told that there is an urgent need for your letters and even phone calls with this new call-for-action. I am told this elimination of the NWPA has potential to act as a domino effect and gut the effectiveness of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

I think the federal government is acting irrationally and inappropriately in attempting to reduce the effectiveness of Canadian laws. To change our laws consultations are required. Many concerned groups were not included in the consultations the government held:

No tourism groups
No First Nations people
No anglers or hunters
No cottage or outdoor recreation groups or organizations
No paddling organizations

Most Canadians will be affected by the elimination of the NWPA and this is the federal government's response to requests that more consultation should be held:

"- no time for public consultation because rescuing the economy is so important."

The Budget Implementation Act is now online.
Here's the link:

The Timing:

I'm told we need to act now, especially on a political level because the elimination of the NWPA is in the budget and has had it's 1st reading. It is the unfair use of the Budget Implementation Act; the modernization of the NWPA needs to be dropped from the Budget Implementation Act and introduced as a separate piece of legislation, allowing for transparency and adequate public consultation!

What to write in your letter:

Send a key message to the Liberals: Demand that they  ask to remove the amendments to NWPA and EA from the budget bill, then you can pass the budget bill without those strings attached. Insist that government introduce its proposed changes to NWPA and EA as standalone bills. 

We need to talk and write to politicians, municipal, provincial and federal and strongly urge them to resist what the Harper government is pushing in terms of gutting environmental legislation under the guise of rescuing the economy.

For email addresses look for title Write Your Letters too: 

Your letter could also have some of these points:

Comments from the Sierra Club of Canada and the Canadian Rivers Network:

Canada’s waterways are under serious threat.

There is power in numbers. We need as many individuals as possible to take action on this so we can nip it in the bud and make sure Canada’s rivers stay protected!

So here’s the thing:

Just this past Friday afternoon (Feb.6/09), under the guise of the 2009 Budget Implementation Act, the federal government has introduced harmful amendments to the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) that will have negative impacts on both navigation and the environment.

The NWPA mandates that, if someone wants to build something in, on, around, under, over, or through a navigable waterway, an assessment of the impacts on navigation (ability to canoe, kayak, go rafting, etc) and an environmental assessment need to be done first. Thus, these amendments will have environmental repercussions for our waterways as well.

The NWPA was originally enacted in 1882. It is one of Canada’s oldest pieces of legislation, and there is no doubt that it needs to be modernized—however, in the name of “cutting red tape” to speed up the building of infrastructure projects and stimulate the economy, the government is introducing severe changes that were recommended in a report by the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, which didn’t even bother to consult Canada’s paddling, environmental, or First Nations communities. These changes include:

The removal of the four named works (bridges, causeways, dams, and booms) as obstructions to navigation
Giving the Minister the power to create “classes of works” and “classes of navigable waters” – ie: separating them into “major” and “minor” categories
Whether something constitutes a “significant interference with navigation” is now up to the Minister’s sole discretion 

I know legislative changes can sound dry, but THIS IS HUGE. The NWPA already --by nature-- only deals with waters that are navigable, and with works that are a significant interference to navigation (ie: bridges, causeways, dams and booms!), so WHY change these things, and give the Minister sole power to decide what’s “significant”? This isn’t transparent or accountable to the Canadian public, and there are better, less harmful ways to expedite infrastructure projects (ie: hire more assessment staff –the environmental and navigation assessments will take less time AND create jobs. How’s that for economic stimulus?)

Pierre Burton once said, “A Canadian is someone who knows how to make love in a canoe”. Canada was discovered, explored and developed through navigation of our waterways. These rivers are Canada’s veins. They belong to all of us, and we weren’t consulted about this at all! 

The heritage right of navigation predates confederation, and Canadians consistently rank the environment as one of their top issues of concern. These changes to the NWPA are simply unacceptable.

There is something you can do—raise your voice! 

1)Spread the word – copy & paste this message into an email or a facebook message to your friends and encourage them to take action. There is power in numbers! Every letter and every phone call add to the movement!

2)Tell the government you care about Canada’s waterways and don’t agree with these amendments to the NWPA. Send an email to the folks listed below and express your distaste at this unfair use of the Budget Implementation Act; the modernization of the NWPA needs to be dropped from the Budget Implementation Act and introduced as a separate piece of legislation, allowing for transparency and adequate public consultation!

Write your letters to:

Email: National Manager of the Navigable Waters Protection Program, David Osbaldeston:

Email: Minister of Transportation, John Baird:

Email: Minister of Environment, Jim Prentice:

Email Minister of Transportation: Opposition transportation critics:

Email:Opposition environment critics:

Email:Opposition water critics:

--And don’t forget YOUR MP (who may need your vote to be re-elected!) Find your MP at this link:

For more information on this issue, please see

Every voice counts!


View the Canadian Rivers Network excellent files and two articles that were written on the issue. They are PDFs and easy to download.


About the CRN


Briefing Notes

Speaking Notes

Globe and Mail

National Post


For more information see the Canadian Rivers Network website:


Becky is involved with many environmental causes. She is currently helping Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society in getting protection for the entire Nahanni Watershed. She discusses the challenges that face this World Heritage site below in her Globe & Mail article.

When a Canadian wilderness comes under threat and legal action needs to be implemented Ecojustice is a fine organization.

A little closer to her home she is a trustee on the Quetico Foundation. The foundation helps to protect and informs the public about this Ontario Quetico Provincial Park and  the challenges it currently faces.

Nature Conservancy of Canada is one of Becky's favourite organizations because it is dedicated to preserving ecologically significant areas through outright land purchase, donations and conservation easements.

Becky also keeps active locally helping organizations like Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Ottawa Valley chapter.

She loves everything about canoeing and she supports the Canadian Canoe Museum whenever she can.

Call--for -action archives. 

 Beverly herd and the pending Uravan mining proposal

Image © Reid McLachlan

An Early Lesson

I asked Dad once why he wrote so many letters about asking government officials to reconsider their stance on various environmental platforms. I figured it was odd for Dad to devote half a day of every week to letter writing when he was already so busy making his films and books about preserving our environment.

He lifted a letter from his done pile and asked me to read it. As I read I was impressed at how polite and simple it was. I understood the message and also felt the passion he had for our disappearing wilderness. Dad told me that just one personal letter written to the government is important because they realize that if one person has written in at least a hundred probably meant to write but never got around to it. It was a real eye opener for me that all letters short, long, learned, or just heart felt can accomplish the perceived impossible.

Becky Mason


Article "A paradise not yet lost" by Becky Mason, written for the Globe & Mail, January 27, 2003

The UN has called the Nahanni River a World Heritage site. "Will the next federal budget help keep it that way?" asks canoeist and activist Becky Mason.

"Deep in the remote Mackenzie Mountains of the Northwest Territories runs a magnificent river with a beautiful name: Nahanni. The South Nahanni River surges through the heart of one of Canada's most treasured wilderness areas and national parks. In the coming months, the federal government -- in co-operation with local First Nations and conservation groups -- has an historic opportunity to protect this vast wilderness forever by expanding Nahanni National Park Reserve to protect the entire watershed of the South Nahanni River. But forced to chose between broadening protection and expanding industrial development, what will it choose?

Nahanni's beauty lies in its ruggedness and diversity. It plunges over a waterfall twice the height of Niagara, cuts through canyons more than one kilometre deep, and rushes past hot springs, ancient caves and other natural wonders. Grizzly and black bears, Dall's sheep, woodland caribou and trumpeter swans are just a few of the wildlife species that live in the park. Plants rare to northern boreal forests cling to mist-bathed cliffs below waterfalls and near hot springs. Wildfires burn freely over the land, creating a rich mosaic of forests of all ages.

The Nahanni was the favourite river of my father, Bill Mason, the renowned Canadian filmmaker, artist and canoeist. He paddled its waters many times during his life. The river had a profound effect on him. With cancer and only months to live, his final wish was to be with his family for one last trip down his beloved river. Dad died shortly after that last trip down the Nahanni in 1988. If he were still with us, I know that he would be actively working to improve the protection of one of his favourite places.

The Nahanni makes an impression on everyone who sees it. After visiting the river in the early 1970s, Pierre Trudeau was so inspired that he directed the minister responsible for national parks at the time, Jean Chrétien, to protect a corridor along the river, preventing it from being exploited for hydro development.

In 1978, the United Nations recognized the Nahanni as a natural wonder, designating the national park as one of the world's first natural World Heritage Sites, even before it did so for the Grand Canyon or Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

When the park was established, little was known about the region's ecosystems, resulting in a park boundary that protects the waterfall and canyons, but leaves out critical wildlife habitat and most of the watershed. As a result, today activities outside the park -- particularly mining development -- are the greatest threat to the Nahanni's future.

Right now, Ottawa has an extraordinary opportunity to expand Nahanni National Park Reserve to properly protect the wilderness and wildlife values of the region. The Park Reserve and much of its watershed lie within the traditional territory of the Deh Cho First Nation.

The Deh Cho, who are engaged in land and self-government negotiations with Ottawa, recently passed a resolution calling for the interim protection of the entire South Nahanni watershed, an area seven times larger than the current park. Conservation groups such as the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society also support watershed protection as the only way to adequately preserve the wildlife, and to avoid contamination of the region's pristine waters from mining effluent. Nearly all players are in line to protect the area.

Just two things are missing: the political will of all federal government departments, and federal funding.

In October, Prime Minister Chrétien and the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Sheila Copps, committed to expanding the Park Reserve as part of their five-year action plan for Parks Canada. But no one can implement the plan unless there is funding in the forthcoming federal budget. And without the funding this year, the opportunity to protect the South Nahanni watershed will pass by, mining and oil and gas development will continue, and this world-famous wilderness will be irreparably damaged.

The land beyond the park boundaries is controlled by the federal Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, which is responsible for both encouraging industrial development in the North, and protecting its environment. In the case of the Nahanni, these two objectives conflict. What is needed is prime ministerial leadership to make protection of Nahanni a top priority, and recognition by the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs that the greatest societal value of the South Nahanni watershed lies in its long-term protection, not in the short-term exploitation of what lies underground.

Mining and oil and gas exploration is encroaching on the Nahanni. But for a fleeting moment, protection is still within our grasp. We mustn't let it slip away. First Nations, conservation groups, canoeists and wilderness-lovers agree that the entire watershed must be protected. Leadership from the federal government, and funding in the upcoming budget can ensure that Nahanni stays wild and free for future generations of Canadians, and for the world."

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