Recently, Western Arctic MP Dennis Bevington introduced Bill C-543 in the House of Commons, which asked that the Peel River be added to the list of rivers protected under the Navigation Protection Act.
Yukon MP Ryan Leef, has objected to this, calling Mr. Bevington names and stating that the bills were “useless.”
Mr. Leef is correct in stating that the Navigation Protection Act is not about environmental protection. However, the act does contain sections that would insure greater environmental protection.
Under Omnibus Budget Bill C-45, the Navigational Waters Protection Act was amended. Aside from changing the title of the act to the Navigation Protection Act, all but large navigable waters were removed from protection.
Mr. Leef claims that this was done at the request of farm groups and municipalities who suffered unnecessary hardship caused by the obligation to protect drainage ditches. Surely, if the Conservative government was that concerned about the trouble caused to municipalities and farmers, they could have found a way within this legislation to deal only with those situations. It wouldn’t have been difficult.
The industrial sector that benefits the most from this change to the new act are pipeline companies. Under this new legislation, standards for putting pipelines under the majority of waterways in Canada will be less stringent. I would suggest that these amendments were made to further the interests of the fossil fuel who can dispense with most of the costly mitigations they are currently required to do.
It is unlikely that pipelines will be built under the Peel River in the near future. But there are other protections from harm included in the new act that would offer extra protection for the Peel River. Sections 21 and 22 of this act prohibit dumping.
The Yukon government is contemplating considerable resource development in the Peel River watershed. Roads and highways will be built if this is allowed to proceed. How well constructed future bridges crossing the Peel River are and how careful resource companies are about dumping will be affected by inclusion under the new act.