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Use of Fisheries Act highlights Conservative hypocrisy regarding water

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The Harper government’s selective application of the Fisheries Act is astounding.

Jim Prentice announced Environment Canada’s new national standards for municipal wastewater plans, which would penalize municipalities dumping raw sewage into Canadian waterways under the Fisheries Act. Of course, the Harper government has no plans to address the 31 billion dollar deficit in municipal infrastructure that would enable municipalities to upgrade their facilities. Instead, as mentioned in a previous blog post, this new plan will force municipalities to turn to private sector financing. In fact, for projects that require over 50 million dollars, municipalities must prove that they have examined private sector contracts (i.e. build an expensive and elaborate case for it, if they want to keep services public) under the new “Building Canada Fund.” This new plan is just one new dimension to the Harper governments’ privatization agenda. Copies of the draft regulations can be obtained by emailing [email protected].

Prentice told an audience in Brockville Ontario yesterday that “all Canadians have a responsibility to take action to protect our water.” Meanwhile, this responsibility to protect water will not apply to metal mining companies who are able to apply to have lakes and rivers exempted from the protections of the Fisheries Act. Under a loophole called Schedule 2 of the Metal Mining Effluent Regulation of the Fisheries Act, lakes and rivers in Canada are being reclassified as “Tailing Impoundment Areas” (TIAs) by which they are not protected from toxic dumping under the Fisheries Act. 

This week, the Council of Canadians and MiningWatch will accompany elders from the Tshilqot’in First Nation who are in Ottawa to call on the government to prevent the destruction of Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) by a copper-gold mining project. The Tshilq’otin have fished for generations in the lake that is home to a unique species of Rainbow Trout. Taseko Mines has applied to drain the lake in order to stockpile waste rock. The company also plans to use nearby Fish Creek and Little Fish Lake as TIAs. Toxic mining waste is expected to contaminate the salmon-bearing Taseko river and eventually the Chilcotin River, which empties into the Fraser River. The BC government has approved the project and it is now in the hands of the federal government. The federal public hearings on Taseko’s proposal begin March 22.

Four lakes in Canada have already been reclassified as TIAs, including Sandy Pond near Long Harbour in Newfoundland. There are at least a dozen more lakes and rivers slated for destruction.

In our meetings with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Natural Resources Canada and Environment Canada this week, we will be sure to quote Prentice on the need to protect water. 

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