Government Supports Initiative to Safeguard Canada’s Fresh Water

May 16, 2012 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today announced the Government of Canada’s support for Bill C-383, which proposes stronger measures to prevent the bulk removal of water from Canada.

The bill was introduced by the Member of Parliament for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, Larry Miller, on December 13, 2011.

“I would like to commend Mr. Miller for introducing this legislation and for his commitment to this important issue,” said Baird. “Our government is committed to protecting Canada’s fresh water for the communities and ecosystems that depend upon it. We will continue to work with our provincial and territorial partners to ensure that Canada’s fresh water is protected.”

Bill C-383 is expected to be debated at second reading in June 2012.

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A backgrounder follows.

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Bill C-383 seeks to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act to provide transboundary waters (waters that flow across the international boundary) with the same protection against bulk water removal that is in place for boundary waters (waters through which the international boundary passes). Under the current International Boundary Waters Treaty Act, removal of water in bulk from boundary waters, such as the Great Lakes, is prohibited.

The bill would strengthen enforcement provisions by increasing fines for violations and adding minimum penalties.

Bill C-383 would also amend the International River Improvements Act to prevent projects that would link non-transboundary waters to waters flowing across the border, if the projects increase the annual flow of water across the boundary. These projects could include a dam, obstruction, canal or reservoir that alters the natural flow of an international river, affecting the use of the river outside of Canada. This measure would prevent an international river from being used to transfer water across the border.

Other provisions in Bill C-383 would move certain exceptions and definitions from regulations of the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act into the body of the Act. This would make the provisions prohibiting bulk water transfers more enduring and would strengthen parliamentary oversight of the Act.

Bill C-383 is expected to be debated at second reading in June 2012.