Canadian Water Law Resources
Water has been in the news recently here in Canada. It has been revealed that closed-door trilateral talks are taking place between Canadian, American and Mexican lobbies to discuss the bulk export or mass diversion of Canadian groundwater to the ever more thirsty US. [Vancouver Sun, April 13, 2007, "Gulp! Canada's water on the table in talks with parched U.S., Mexico -To draft 'blueprint' on economic integration"]
In that context, here are a few Canadian resources on the topic of "water law":
- Water FAQs (Resource Library for the Environment and the Law, Canadian Environmental Law Association): "The Resource Library for the Environment and the Law and the Canadian Environmental Law Association provide here fourteen series of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), relating to water. Intended to foster a better understanding of the context of regulatory changes pertaining to water, these FAQs provide a range of perspectives and internet links to useful information. Additional fact sheets are provided to address aspects of water quality and quantity that go beyond the challenges that the events in Walkerton created". [Walkerton was one of the worst cases of water contamination in Canada]
- Water Policy and Legislation (Environment Canada): this site covers federal, provincial and international laws and agreements on water management
- Bulk Water Removals, Water Exports and the NAFTA (Library of Parliament, Jan. 2002): "Canada is the largest single owner of fresh water resources in the world. This vast abundance of water has prompted some to advocate its export to water-poor regions, primarily the southwestern region of the United States. The debate over whether to export water from Canada has continued over the past three decades. Although the federal government’s policy officially opposing large-scale exports has been in place since 1987, public fears nevertheless continue. These fears have been heightened by concerns of critics over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and its predecessor, the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which were not in place when the debate over water exports began. Clashes continue over whether surface and ground water in its natural state (for example, in lakes and rivers) is subject to NAFTA obligations. Some argue that this is the case. At the same time, however, the governments of Canada, the United States and Mexico have expressly stated that the NAFTA does not apply to water in its natural state. Critics of the status quo have called on the federal government to take action to deal with what they perceive to be a serious threat to our water resources. They contend that, not only should there be federal legislation placing an outright ban on large-scale water exports, but that there should also be an explicit amendment to the NAFTA exempting water in its natural state from the obligations of the treaty, although the U.S. might not agree to this."
- An Act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act, S.C. 2001, c. 40: "The bill would provide for a clearer Act and more effective implementation of the 1909 Treaty relating to Boundary Waters and Questions arising along the Boundary between Canada and the United States (commonly referred to as the Boundary Waters Treaty) by: a) prohibiting the bulk removal of boundary waters from the water basins in which they are located; b) requiring persons to obtain licences from the Minister of Foreign Affairs for water-related projects in boundary or transboundary waters that would affect the natural level or flow of waters on the United States side of the border; and c) providing clear sanctions and penalties for violation. The prohibition on boundary water removals would apply principally to the Great Lakes but would also affect other boundary waters, such as part of the St. Lawrence River, the St. Croix and Upper St. John Rivers, and the Lake of the Woods. The amendments (...) are part of a larger three-pronged strategy announced by the federal government on 10 February 1999 to prohibit bulk water removals, including those for export, from all Canadian water basins. The provinces have primary responsibility for the management of water resources; however, the Boundary Waters Treaty gives the federal government clear jurisdiction over boundary waters to the extent stipulated in the Treaty. Pursuant to section 132 of the Constitution Act, 1867, only the federal government has the authority to fulfil the Treaty’s obligations with respect to boundary waters."
- Freshwater Water Management in Canada: IV Groundwater (Library of Parliament, Feb. 2006)): "Unlike the provincial legislative assemblies, the Parliament of Canada has passed few acts dealing with groundwater, largely because of the federal government’s limited role in this domain. Provincial laws and regulations address quantitative and qualitative aspects of groundwater extraction, environmental assessments, and land use and development. At the federal level, only a small number of regulations in the mining, oil and fisheries sectors refer to groundwater. Groundwater is also mentioned in certain laws implementing international agreements, mainly to withdraw it from their application (...) Among non-legislative parliamentary action on groundwater is the report tabled in 2005 by the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, entitled Water in the West: Under Pressure (...) With respect to groundwater, the Committee recommended that the federal government 'take the necessary steps to ensure that all of Canada’s major aquifers are mapped by 2010. This data should be made available in the national groundwater database and supported by a summary document assessing the risks to groundwater quality and quantity'."