moved for leave to introduce Bill C-529, An Act to amend the Navigable Waters Protection Act (Slave River).
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table my bill, an act to amend the Navigable Waters Protection Act for Slave River. I wish to thank my colleague, the member for Western Arctic, for seconding this bill, which is of great significance to his constituents.
The purpose is both simple and necessary. It will add the mighty Slave River, flowing from Alberta to the Northwest Territories, to the substantially diminished list of rivers the government has deemed worthy of protection.
According to David Livingstone, former director of Indian and Northern Affairs' water division:
Life in the North has always revolved around water in an intimate way that many other jurisdictions have lost. The value of water in the North is the same as the value of water to people who live in deserts: central to life.
This bill actually amends the 2012 Budget Implementation Act. Why? The government, absent any advance consultations, including with those directly impacted, used its budget bill to further eviscerate this century-and-a-half-year-old protection law.
The Navigable Waters Protection Act, originally enacted to guarantee navigation rights, has been upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada as an important trigger for federal action to protect rivers and lakes. The law, pre-evisceration, served as key trigger for federation assessment and permitting.
The decision to remove protective measures for the Slave River was made absent any consultations with the aboriginal peoples who have a long-standing connection to the river. In so doing, the government violated its overriding constitutional duty of prior consultation and accommodation of aboriginal rights and title.
According to Cheyeanne Paulette, former chief of Smith's Landing First Nation, located on the banks of the Slave River:
The Slave River has sustained our people since time immemorial. We have a vision for the river that ensures it will continue to be a home for our people for all time, and we know many other Northerners share our vision.
For centuries the river has provided the major transportation route between Fort Fitzgerald in the Northwest Territories and Fort Chipewyan. According to elder François Paulette, who was raised on the river, the Slave River is considered sacred and is to be respected.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)