Navigable Waters Protection Act – OVERVIEW

June 20, 2019 – With the passing of Bill C-69, navigable waters in Canada regained some important protections. Now, Federal approval will be required for all major projects, and “medium impact” projects on the list of “priority” waterways will also need approval. A new public registry will list proposed, approved, and in-review projects. Read more from Canada’s Environmental and Regulatory Reviews page. FOCA will be monitoring how effectively these changes are implemented over the months and years to come.

Bill C69 according to: CBC
Global News 
Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP)

February 8, 2018 – The Minister of Environment and Climate Change introduced Bill C-69 An Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

Among the extensive changes to the Canadian environmental legislation introduced through Bill C-69, the Federal Government will amend the current Navigation Protection Act (NPA) and rename it the Canadian Navigable Waters Act (“CNWA”). The proposed CNWA would increase protections for all navigable waters (as defined in the CNWA), rather than the limited list in the schedule to the current NPA.

Other key changes to the navigable waters management include:

  • A comprehensive statutory definition of ‘navigable water’ that broadens the scope of federal regulatory power;
  • A new approval scheme for minor and major works on any navigable water, including those that are not listed on the schedule;

Overall, the amended NPA will expand the scope of navigable waters subject to regulation and increase the Minister’s powers related to protecting those waters from unapproved obstructions.

Note: Passing this ambitious legislative agenda (including C-69, and C-68 Fisheries Act)  will be a challenge with the next federal election looming in 2019.  These Bills will be subject to extensive Parliamentary debate, and will be referred to Standing Committee hearings before they are passed by the House of Commons and sent on to the Senate for its consideration.

April 2013: Federal NDP takes action to protect navigable waterways

February 2013:  Canadian Energy Pipeline Association encouraged changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act (CTV News)

November 2012: Changes afoot to the protection of Canada’s waters

In 1882 Canada’s first environmental law hit the books: the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA).  Like the watered down Fisheries Act reforms that have preceded it in 2012, proposed changes to the NWPA (renamed as the Navigation Protection Act, or NPA) will change the law to no longer protect navigable waters but rather to protect navigation.

This change, hidden in massive Bill C-45, will put protections in place for just 97 of the roughly 32,000 lakes previously protected under the NWPA. Construction of bridges, dams, and other projects would be permitted on most waterways without prior approval under the new Act. Pipelines are exempted from this law, and under the Act, pipeline impacts on Canada’s waterways will no longer be considered in environmental assessments.

CURIOUS FACT: 90% of the lakes that will be still designated as protected are in Conservative ridings; 20% are in NDP ridings and 6% are in Liberal ridings.

Instead of essentially killing the NWPA, FOCA believes the government should be encouraging the sustainable use of our aquatic resources, and planning for the protection and restoration of essential nearshore habitat.

Nov.7, 2012 – read this CBC News article: “Navigable Waters Act at committee one last time” and see the summary video on that page

Want to learn more about the NWPA?

Click here for a legal backgrounder (2012) (pdf; 15 pages), from Ecojustice.

Click here to see if your local lake or river is listed. (pdf; 11 pages)

NOTE: If you are interested to see your lake or river listed, contact your MP to let them know!

Click here to see an example letter (pdf; 2 pages), sent from the Coalition for Equitable Water Flow (CEWF), Haliburton, to MP Barry Devolin. The CEWF’s letter generated media attention; visit for more information.

Get tips from FOCA about making your voice heard.

Michelle LewinNavigable Waters Protection Act – OVERVIEW