I don't know how the reader feels about the federal government's recent Bill C-45. Personally, I'm in a state of shock.
Omnibus Bill C-45 is characterized as a "job and growth" bill, outlining the federal budget for 2013, yet very little in this 450-page document has anything overtly to do with the budget. As David Suzuki has pointed out, half the pages are taken up with amendments and additions to environmental laws that were instituted in the hastily composed Bill-38.
The purpose of Bill C-38, it will be remembered, was to dismantle legislation troublesome to industry, such as the Environmental Assessment Act, the Fisheries Act, the Species At Risk Act, at the same time silencing NGOs, scientific institutions, and other agencies that reflect negatively on the effects of government planning. Not to mention the aim of making a detour around the legitimate concerns of First Nations.
The ulterior motive of these amendments is the building of pipelines and facilities for transporting of oil, in order to clear a path for projects like the Northern Gateway Project As a result, we see Bill C-45 making new amendments to the Navigable Waters Protection Act, an Act that's been established since 1882. The Navigable Waters Protection Act has been converted into the Navigation Protection Act.
The new Navigation Protection Act excludes from federal oversight more than 99 per cent of Canada's lakes and rivers, and for the remaining waterways, protection is weakened, giving free reign to industrial projects formerly held under legal constraint.
Likewise, revision to the Fisheries Act allows industries to opt out of the longstanding requirement to restore lakes or streams after doing them damage.
Bill C-45 further undermines environmental protection embodied in the Hazardous Material Information Review Act, and weakens an already ineffective Species At Risk Act.
How has the Harper government arrived at such decisions, contrary to the majority opinion of the Canadian people? The answer is, by a strategy of manipulating procedure that short-circuits discussion in parliament and reduces opportunity for public discussion.
First Nations have viewed these developments with particular alarm, and so they should. The removal of all reasonable environmental protections will directly affect Reserve Lands and surrounding territories on which they (and all of us alike) depend for a livelihood and a future.
Crucial modifications have been made to the Indian Act. One example is the "streamlining" of rules surrounding the lease of Reserve Land, and the adjusting of legislation to make it easier for the federal government to remove land from First Nations stewardship. The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs can now call a referendum for land removal and the results will stand firm, no matter how many or how few band members attend. Previously, all members were required to attend before a referendum could pass.
The upshot of this so-called budget bill is the Idle No More Movement, centreing on Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence from James Bay. Theresa Spence has been on a hunger strike since Dec. 11, 2012, demanding that Prime Minister Harper and the Governor-General meet with her and other First Nations leaders to discuss the latest federal actions.
Bill C-45 was passed on Dec. 14. During that month, in an effort to express their "frustrations" with the bill, First Nations chiefs showed up at the House of Commons but were denied entrance. Protests followed in Toronto, Vancouver, Saskatoon, and elsewhere. In solidarity, the movement has spread into the US, Europe and New Zealand, and will continue to grow.
Bill C-45, further to Bill C-38, violates the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Canada endorsed two years ago. The bill does not properly honour treaties or indigenous sovereignty. The government managed to bypass its own rules of consultation.
While I write these words, Theresa Spence has been on her hunger strike for 30 days, and no end is foreseen until serious discussion around these issues takes place.
As for my comment, in my opinion one thing is perfectly clear: this round of legislative chicanery is about oil. Any fool can see that these bills are meant to brush aside all obstacles to pipelines, oil tankers, big money, and behind it all, as ever, the expansion of the titanic Tar Sands.
More, C-45 and the rest imply that the Harper government is going to shove this oil business down our throats, native and non-native, whether we like it or not. Wilderness values, clean water, climate change, social justice, the health of the nation be damned.
Is there any wonder I'm in a state of shock?
You'll find me, if you're looking for me, in the Idle No More Movement. Meet you there.
See on the net: Elizabeth May's comments, and idlenomore.ca.