Here is an interview with the founder of Idle No More, Nina Wilson:
She states that “My main concern is Bill C-45. It has the, it is one of the most horrible that I’ve ever. You know I’m not a bill person…. And this Bill C-45 is one of the most horrible that I’ve ever had to see. It needs to be scrapped, it needs to be ummmm really looked at because it is causing so many problems.”
Many will claim it is about so much more, but in this case I’ll listen to the founder. So let’s look at Bill C-45, and the “problems” it is creating.
Change to the Navigable Waters Protection Act.
We have all heard the claims that most of our lakes and rivers will no longer be environmentally protected under C-45. Is this true?
C-45 only amends the “Navigable Waters Protection Act”, which has provided for protection of passage on Canada’s navigable waters. It does not remove any other legislation in force.
Refer to Blakes’ commentary on the bill: http://www.blakes.com/english/view_bulletin.asp?ID=5617
According to the bulletin, it strengthens some aspect of protection:
“Another provision of note in the NPA is a prohibition on dewatering of navigable waters. “Dewatering” is not defined. This prohibition is not restricted to only those navigable waters listed in the Schedule but will apply to any navigable waters throughout Canada. There is a provision which allows the Governor in Council to order an exemption from the prohibition if such an exemption would be in the public interest. However, there is no approval power granted to the Minister in respect of such dewatering. This may prove problematic for major industries which currently use substantial amounts of water for their business. It also raises a question as to the intersection with provincial water laws which provide licences for water use.”
It will make it harder for industry to pull water out of waterways.
Also, the NWPA was never about protecting the environment, it was about protecting navigation. As per Blakes:
“Other commentators have suggested the amendments to the NWPA, in essence, mean it is no longer an act that protects the environment. In reality, the NWPA is not, and has never been, a statute which provided for protection of the aquatic environment; rather, it provides for protection of navigation, over which the federal government has exclusive authority under Canada’s constitution. “
So what is happening in regards to other environmental protection? See http://blakesfiles.com/pub/English/environmental/jul_2012/Fish.pdf for details on the fishery protection. The key paragraph is:
“What has been lost in this public discourse is that changes made by Bill C-38 to the Act actually increase the oversight by the federal government of activities impacting fish-bearing waters and fish habitat. This includes extending the power to order works to mitigate harm, allowing government officials to shut down operations permanently and increasing responsibilities on individuals and corporations to report potentially harmful activities.”
We still have the “Canadian Environmental Enhancement Act” and whatever provincial statutes protecting our waters. See http://www.blakes.com/english/view_bulletin.asp?ID=5625 , which says:
“…the bill also contains some potentially significant additions to the enforcement tools that may be used by federal regulators and the courts to encourage compliance and impose meaningful punishment on offenders….” As well as “Aboriginal Involvement: The New CEAA has, as a stated purpose, the promotion of aboriginal involvement in the environmental assessment process through communication and co-operation, and requires that the assessment consider specific effects on Aboriginal Peoples.”
In regards to Fisheries, it says
“There is a unique change to the provisions prohibiting the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction (HADD) of fish habitat (s. 35). The bill contains an amendment to the prohibition which is automatic upon passage by Parliament. This change does not significantly alter the prohibition itself but does expand the scope of the prohibitions from “works and undertakings” to include all activities”
“Another area of particular significance is the fines for offences under the Act. These have been amended to increase the maximum fines for large corporations to up to C$6-million for offences which are prosecuted under indictment and C$4-million for summary matters. Perhaps more significantly, there will also be requirements for the courts to impose minimum fines on corporations. In the case of large companies, the minimum fine for a first offence is C$100,000 for summary convictions and C$500,000 for matters that proceed by indictment. All maximums and minimums are doubled for subsequent offences.”
So a second offence, if prosecuted by indictment, would yield a million dollar fine. All this sounds like greater environmental protection to me!
Change to the Indian Act
The section of C-45 that amends the Indian Act is here:
Explanatory notes are under section 8 here: http://www.fin.gc.ca/pub/c45/4-eng.asp It is helpful to compare the changes to the original act, to understand what changes have been made. http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/I-5/page-15.html#h-20 .
It primarily changes what sort of meetings are required to perform a ‘”and designation.” I quote:
“… allows a First Nation to lease a part of the reserve without surrendering its collective interest. Furthermore, it enables the First Nation to collect real property tax from lessees. Land designation enables First Nation corporations and third party developers to lease reserve land. Financial institutions regard leases as assets, enabling First Nations to use them as collateral for securing loans or financing economic development projects.”
The explanatory notes say that the changes are as a result of concerns with the current land designation regime voiced by the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board, the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, and the Auditor General. The original land designation process was at the request of a First Nation back in 1988, so they would not have to initiate a land surrender. I therefore find the claim of no consultation to be a little false in this case.
This document does an excellent job of explaining the changes. It says the proposed voting amendments apply only to land designations, not land surrenders, and were done to respond to the frustrations of First Nations. http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1350676320034/1350676521625
It sounds to me like this is sound policy legislated after consultation. I fail to see Ms. Wilson’s claim that it is ‘horrible’.
I know the movement has other concerns. Some of them may be valid. Others, like increased transparency and accountability, sound like they will be of benefit to the average First Nations member, but a thorn in the side of corrupt chiefs.
There has also been numerous claims of ‘no consultation.” If you look here, http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1355502559608/1355502642538, it appears that the Minister has been doing consultations on several acts and entering into various new agreements. Thus I find the claim of no consultation to be false.
The real problem with Idle No More is twofold: First, the Chief Spence’s fish broth ‘hunger’ strike will only take the focus away from important issues. Second, the movement is claiming there to be problems where none exist, rather than concentrating on the real issues that do exist. Seriously, how can the Harper Government respond to claims that it knows are false? It can’t.