NAN fears changes to Navigable Waters Protection Act threatens First Nations' livelihood

    THUNDER BAY, ON, Feb. 25 /CNW/ - Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief
Stan Beardy fears impending changes to the Navigable Waterways Protection Act
(NWPA) under consideration by the Government of Canada threatens First Nations
who have relied upon navigable waterways to sustain their livelihood for
    "It is unacceptable that NAN First Nations were not consulted and that
our traditional way of life was not considered during the development of the
recommended changes put forth by the Standing Committee on Transport,
Infrastructure and Communities (SCOTIC)," said Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN)
Grand Chief Stan Beardy. "The fact that these proposed changes are being
considered for implementation without proper consultation and input from the
people of Nishnawbe Aski is not only wrong, but in contravention to the
Crown's fiduciary duty to consult and accommodate First Nations enshrined in
the Canada Constitution Act."
    In June 2008, SCOTIC put forth eight recommendations to change the NWPA.
NAN is especially concerned with the following recommended changes:

    -   Proposed amendments to the definition of navigable waters to exclude
        minor waters and that the new definition should clearly state what
        constitutes "navigable water."
    -   Proposed amendments to the definition of "work" under the NWPA to
        exclude "minor works."
    -   Proposed deletion of specific reference to each of the four "named"
        works (bridge, boom, dam and causeway) under Section 5(2) of the
        Navigable Waters Protection Act without compromising the review of
        works which impede or obstruct navigation.

    Beardy is concerned that these proposed changes would make it easier for
large scale projects to be undertaken in First Nation territories without
proper environmental protections. As well, proposed changes would shift the
responsibility for conducting environmental assessments from the Government of
Canada to First Nation communities, many of which do not have the capacity to
do so.
    "Proposed changes to the NWPA should not be included in Bill C-10, the
Budget Implementation Act, as part of the Government of Canada's $40-million
economic stimulus package," said Beardy. "We are not opposed to a fiscal
stimulus to aid in the recovery of the Canadian economy, but it is
unacceptable that such economic expedience would come at the expense of First
Nation rights and environmental protections."

    Nishnawbe Aski Nation is a political territorial organization
representing 49 First Nation communities within James Bay Treaty 9 and Treaty
5 territory - an area covering two-thirds of the province of Ontario.

For further information:

For further information: Michael Heintzman, Media Relations Officer -
Nishnawbe Aski Nation, (807) 625-4906 or (807) 621-2790 mobile

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