A Canada Water Week crisis

The second-ever Canada Water Week, coinciding with World Water Day, is just about done. I spent yesterday traveling to Birch Hills, SK, to do a talk and reading from my book Lakeland for the local library annual fundraiser. It was an amazing evening that included, among other things, a sailboat used as decorative art. The night will get its own post shortly.

Meantime, check out my latest piece, published on The Tyee. It’s all about how the Canadian federal government under Stephen Harper is exploiting a loophole in the Fisheries Act to turn virgin lakes into mining tailings ponds, thereby destroying them in perpetuity.

Sadly, this is not all.

In just the last few days, a leaked government document has come to light showing that the Harper conservatives intend to entirely remove the concept of habitat protection from the aforementioned Fisheries Act. The damning document was brought up in the House of Commons by British Columbia MP Fin Donelly. The government did not deny nor disavow the document, and it confirmed that unspecified changes to the act were forthcoming.

My colleagues from Nature Canada’s Stop Wasting Our Lakes Campaign and Living Lakes Canada have received warning that the Harper government intends tack these legislative changes onto the federal budget bill due to be tabled in just a few days. As is always the case with these omnibus bills, the intention is bury the unpleasantness in mountain of paper. The media and opposition will be spread thin trying to deal with the fallout of the whole budget. Who’s going to notice a little wording change in the Fisheries Act?

The Fisheries Act is one of our oldest environmental laws in Canada, and indeed the world. Its concept of habitat protection is simply to support fish but to protect the whole pyramid of life upon which fish depend. Habitat-level protection is holistic law, the kind of thing we need more of, not less. Losing it will be a terrible, and dangerous, setback.

The budget comes down in a few days. I would dearly love to be wrong about this. If you have any influence with the government of the day, please use it nip this ill-considered move in the bud. Make a liar out of me, please.



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