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February 18, 2009     Post 13
navigation rights in question

Of interest to American boaters who travel Lake Ontario ( and other waters!)

The recent Canadian budget has a piece of legislation called the Navigable Waters Protection Act buried within it. Now anytime I see something “protected” in government legislation it's well worth another look. You gotta ask WHO is being protected. Lake Ontario Waterkeepers' legal team has done so and it isn't good.

The protection appears to be mainly for private development rights and the take over of navigable waters for purposes other than navigation. Any U.S. boater who enjoys cruising for pleasure or has commercial interests in traveling Lake Ontario should go to the Waterkeeper site and do some reading. Google Lake Ontario Waterkeeper or go direct to the link below. These legal actions have a way of setting precedents, and you can be certain that people outside of Canada are watching this one to see how it works out. We could see similar maneuvers here.


By eliminating the environmental impact statement process the public is shut out from comment and information on any proposed projects. Waterkeeper notes that the right of navigation has been recognized for 2500 years or more and goes back to Roman Law. Yet here in the US it's been under assault and now Canada's capitalists are doing the same. Waterkeeper states politics and short term financial clout rather than science or larger societal needs are going to unduly influence waterway usage and development. The website also states the application of the new law to certain waterways and not to others appears arbitrary and again, is shrouded in closed door meetings and lack of public information. Waterkeeper says no waterway should be “reclassified” by the new law without significant public and scientific input and the existing law of common use that protects the right of navigation should be explicitly stated.

I would urge boaters to stay informed on this one. Maybe write in support of the Waterkeeper folks, too, and point out how much money we spend when we visit as tourists. Assaults on navigational freedom in Canada set precedents for our own waters too.

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