Gallant government watering down the protection of our rivers, streams and lakes
by Jean Louis Deveau

At the Peace and Friendship Alliance (PAFA) meeting of March 19th, Lawrence Wuest introduced us to the Gallant government’s proposed new water strategy which is meant to replace our current Water Classification Regulation, NB Regulation 2002-13.

The following is an attempt to explain the differences between the two.

The proposed new water strategy may be found on all of two pages, that is, on pages 17 and 18 of a discussion paper called Working Together to Build a Water Strategy for New Brunswick. It consists of four main goals.

Goal no. 2 of this new water strategy, as quoted from page 17, is: “to manage and use water responsibly by protecting drinking water and eco-system [sic] health while allowing economic opportunities (my emphasis).”

Of concern is that, compared to our current water policy, water will be used for economic development, “now and in the future.” An example of this would be to use water for fracking. In short, the use of water for economic development is now entrenched in the draft water strategy and so on equal footing with the traditional use of water which is to maintain the health of our environments. These two objectives are diametrically opposed. Plus, there is no indication on how water allocations would be made and who would be making those decisions other than that it would be a shared responsibility amongst the consumers, be it corporations or people, large or small.

On page 6 of the new water strategy, the Government stated that it is committed to engage First Nations communities in the discussion and that information will be sent to those communities. According to discussions held at the PAFA meeting, on March 19th, First Nations were not involved in drafting this new water strategy before it was released to the public. And since the provisions of the Government’s own policy on the Duty to Consult Indigenous Peoples requires that First Nations be consulted at the outset, as opposed to after such a policy has been drafted, the government is already in contravention of its own rules and regulations, not to mention Supreme Court of Canada rulings from which their consultation policy is a derivation of.

Our current water classification system as specified in A Guide to New Brunswick’s Water Classification Regulation, and albeit never implemented, has been in existence since 2002. It is designed to protect aquatic life. This is accomplished by way of engaging with community members to collect data on the quality of water in the streams, rivers, and lakes of their respective communities. This data is then used to classify these bodies of water according to three different classes of water: A, B, or C, where class A consists of the highest quality water. Each body of water would then be managed according to its classification. Nobody is permitted to do anything to change a body of water’s classification without receiving permission from members of the local community, thereby making local communities responsible and accountable for the care and use of their water. This is by far one of the most progressive policies in North America yet risks being dismantled by the Gallant government in exchange for their watered-down policy which is the subject of this notification.

There has been a great deal of interest demonstrated from New Brunswick’s communities in classifying bodies of water. Since 2000, more than a million dollars has been dispensed by the Environmental Trust Fund to non-governmental organizations, such as the Nashwaak Watershed Association and the Groupe du bassin versant de la region du Cap Pele, to collect data needed for the classification of some 19 rivers in New Brunswick.

table


Whereas our current water classification system is focused on a single bottom line of ensuring that the conditions necessary to maintain aquatic life are being met, as illustrated in Table 1 above, the triple bottom line of the new water strategy, that is, of managing water for people, nature, and industry is problematic for at least three reasons. First, the incorporation of water as a means for economic growth ultimately leads to the commodification of water.

The commodification of water means that water could be traded on the free market like oil, gas, and other commodities. Should our water become entangled in free trade agreements, this would undoubtedly lead to conflicts on who should have priority over its use: people, nature, or industry. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, corporations trump all else. Second, the transferring of the responsibility for the care of our water from communities into the hands of consumers, be it people or corporations, means that not only have local communities lost control over their water but that whoever has the most power and influence, in terms of corporations and or other consumers, gets to decide who uses our water. Third, this way of managing our water is not in keeping with the government’s obligations of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples who view water as sacred and who would never accept water being used for economic development.

My second point is about the lack of transparency over this issue. Despite the importance and gravity of this major policy change in water use, public consultations on this new water strategy have been occurring with little to no advertisement, thus making it nearly impossible for interested citizens to become engaged. Appearing in the Gallant Government’s last throne speech, and in a press release which was not picked up by the media, public notifications have not been widely distributed. To date, four open houses have occurred, with only two left to happen this week: Monday in Saint John and Wednesday in Fredericton. The meetings are also happening during supper time, that is, between 4:30 pm and 6:30, making it difficult for many people to attend, particularly those who finish work at 5:00 pm and those with young children in daycare. By way of comparison, the 2012 Citizen Engagement tour for the new oil and natural gas standards were well advertised and took place between 6:30 and 8:30 pm.

And finally, I wish to refer to a comment on page 13 of the new water strategy made in reference to the deficiencies of the current water classification system.

[Department of Environment and Local Government] was advised that deficiencies within this regulation prevented its use to classify surface waters and the program was put on hold. Furthermore DELG received legal advice that suggested attempting to fix this regulation would equate to an entire rewrite of that part of the legislation.

Charles Murray, our Ombudsman did not agree with the concerns expressed above by the Department of Environment and Local Government as stated on pages 5-6 of his report:

At this point, it should be noted that no court has ruled upon the Regulation. Accordingly, the suggestions that the Regulation is void or unenforceable are thus far opinion— perhaps correct, but not having the force of law...The suggestion that there continues to be unaddressed issues about the legality of Regulation 2002-13 12 years after its coming into force strains credulity.

To conclude, the Government is now developing policy that would transform water into a vehicle for economic development. Consultations with Indigenous peoples have not yet occurred and public open houses will have been completed by the time most New Brunswickers will have heard anything about this, leaving the majority of us with few options to make our voices heard on what is undoubtedly our most important and precious resource—water. The closing date for comments on the new water strategy is April 29th and so the time to act is now.

 

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Action Alerts

Call for nominations for the NBEN Awards - 2017

Monday, 31 July 2017
by Annika Chiasson
Every day people and environmental groups take action to protect and restore New Brunswick’s environment.  

Over this past year, who stands out in your mind? 

We invite you to nominate a group or individual deserving of one of the NBEN awards which will be presented in style at Eco-Confluence 2017.  Send an e-mail to nben@nben.ca describing your nominee’s work.  Nominees must be members or associates of the NBEN*.

Nomination deadline is September 13, 2017.

*Current NBEN Steering Committee members are not eligible for awards.

Resquest for letters of support: Proposed name restoration for the Wolastoq

Sunday, 30 April 2017
by Alma
 The Wolastoq Grand Council supports our YOUTH GROUPS on their proposal for changing the name of the Saint John River, back to it’s original and proper name; Wolastoq (the beautiful & bountiful river ). We see this as a good place to begin the process of implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; which was strongly recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  

Proposed Name Restoration: 
  • The name Saint John River back to it’s original indigenous name -  Wolastoq
Purpose: 
  • Wolastoq; (the beautiful river) is the original Indigenous name of the River.
  • Wolastoq is the name sake for the real identity and unique nationality of our People; the Wolastoqiyik.  Respecting the rights of Wolastoqiyik.
  • Scientific studies have now confirmed, what our people have always known; “that water has memory”.    This river will remember its original name.   
  • This deed would begin a process for reconciliation with a show of goodwill on the part of the Government of New Brunswick, and would;
  • Create opportunities for discussions and engagement around indigenous issues.
  • Wolastoqiyik have a right to retain their own names for communities, places and persons. 

The Wolastoq Grand Council is requesting support letters from our Allies; as individuals, organizations, and/or Groups.  For more information, contact Alma Brooks, 506-478-1256, almabrooks.26@outlook.com

Please send support letters to the following addresses:

The Wolastoq Grand Council,
Grand Chief; Ron Tremblay
50 Maliseet Drive
Fredericton, NB, E3A 2V9


David Coon
Office of the Green Party Leader
P.O. Box 6000
Fredericton, NB, E3B 5H1

Additional Information

  1. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada
Carolyn Bennett; Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada; has assured the Wolastoq Grand Council in writing that; - “Canada is committed to a renewed nation to nation relationship with indigenous peoples based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership.”   Carolyn Bennett also stated that ; - “Achieving full reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous people in Canada is at the heart of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada’s mandate, and that the government of “Canada will engage with Indigenous peoples, provinces, territories, and Canadians on how to implement the Declaration in accordance with Canada’s Constitution”.

  1. Andrea Bear-Nicholas
As described in a 2011 article by Andrea Bear-Nicholas, Maliseet historian:  
  1. The first step in the dispossession for the indigenous peoples in the Maritimes began in earnest immediately after the British capture of the French fort at Louisbourg in 1758.   Where place names and names of First Nations in the entire region had been inscribed on earlier maps; both would soon be erased by colonial cartographers in a process described by J. B. Harley as cartographic colonialism.  The justifications for these erasures was found in the doctrine of discovery.   
  2. The second step in the dispossession of indigenous peoples in Nova Scotia began immediately after signing of the Treaty of 1760 by Passamaquoddy and Maliseet Leaders, and later the signing of the Mascarene Treaty.   Although there was no surrender of any lands in either of these Treaties; 1.5 million acres of Maliseet land which outlawed the surveying and expropriation of lands not yet ceded by the indigenous inhabitants or purchased by the Crown.    


  3. United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:   Articles 1, 2, 6, & 13   support and provide a guide for the implementation leading to reconciliation.

As a distinct ‘people,’ we have a right to our accurate identity and nationality.
  • Indigenous Peoples have the right to the full enjoyment as a collective or as individuals of all human rights and fundamental freedoms as recognized in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and international human rights law. 
  • Indigenous peoples and individuals are free and equal to all other peoples and individuals and have the right to be free from any kind of discrimination, in the exercise of their rights, in particular that based on their indigenous origin and identity. 
  • Every indigenous individual has the right to their own nationality. 
  • Indigenous people have a right to retain their own names for communities, places and persons.  “States shall take effective measures to ensure that this right is protected”.