Categories of works in the proposed Canadian Navigable Waters Act

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In February 2018, the Government of Canada introduced proposed legislation (Bill C-69) which would enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, amend the Navigation Protection Act, and make consequential amendments to other Acts.

Bill C-69 would put in place better rules to protect our environment, fish and waterways, and rebuild public trust in how decisions about resource development are made.

Proposed changes to the Navigation Protection Act in Bill C-69 would create a new Canadian Navigable Waters Act (CNWA). This new Act would:

  • restore and better protect your right to move freely over Canada’s waterways
  • advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples
  • create more accessible and transparent decision-making processes

CNWA Highlights

What are works under the CNWA?

Works include any structure, device or thing — temporary or permanent — made by humans that is in, on, over, under, through or across any navigable water. They can be small works like docks or large works like dams.

Minor Works

Under the Navigation Protection Act, an Order designates minor works that would only slightly interfere with navigation, like cottage docks. As long as the work meets requirements found in the Order, minor works on scheduled navigable waters are considered pre-approved and do not require approval from Transport Canada.

Under the proposed new Act, the Minor Works Order would apply to minor works on all navigable waters, not only those listed on the Schedule.

Major Works

To protect the public right to navigation on all navigable waters, the proposed Act would introduce a new category for major works. Major works, such as large dams, would be likely to substantially interfere with navigation. A new Major Works Order would designate types of works that always require an approval from Transport Canada on all navigable waters. We are consulting on the proposed categories of major works.

Works in navigable waters listed on the Schedule

Under the Navigation Protection Act, a list of waterways (known as the "Schedule") is used to identify navigable waters where people must get Transport Canada approval to build works (like bridges, and dams). Except for minor works, all works on navigable waters listed in the Schedule require approval from Transport Canada. The proposed Act keeps the Schedule, and introduces a simpler process for expanding it.

Works in navigable waters not listed on the Schedule

The proposed Act introduces new processes for all other works on non-scheduled navigable waters.

Owners of all other works would have the option to:

  • apply to Transport Canada for approval, or
  • notify the public of the planned work, and be subject to a new public resolution process. This new public resolution process would allow Canadians to have a say in projects that impact their right to navigation.