About the Canadian Navigable Waters Act

In 2019, the Navigation Protection Act (NPA) was amended and renamed the Canadian Navigable Waters Act (CNWA) to better reflect its purpose.

The Act was part of a group of legislation aimed at strengthening environmental protection. This included protecting waters on which the public has the right to travel (navigable waters).

The Act received Royal Assent on June 21, 2019.

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Who is governed by the Act

The Act can apply to anyone, including industry, all levels of government and the public, who is:

  • an owner of work(s) on navigable waters;
  • interfering with navigation in Canadian navigable waters; and/or
  • planning something that will affect navigation in navigable waters.

Changes in the Act

Changes in the Act that increase the protection of navigable waters include:

  • an easier way to add waters to the list of scheduled waters;
  • expanding the Act to regulate major works and obstructions on all navigable waters, even those not on the schedule;
  • requirements that minor works would need to meet on any navigable water in Canada;
  • adding an online registry of projects and approvals; and
  • consideration of Indigenous knowledge and traditional use of the waters.

The Act introduces a process to notify the public and help resolve conflicts about works on navigable waters that aren’t on the schedule. This process allows Canadians to have a say in projects that affect their right to travel on a waterway.

The Act creates a new category for “major” works that are likely to substantially interfere with navigation. If these major works interfere with navigation, they will require approval from Transport Canada (TC) whether the affected navigable waters are on the schedule or not.

Applications under the former Act

Existing works deemed approved under the NPA, remain approved under the CNWA, where terms and conditions remain in effect.

Administration of the Act

TC administers the Act through the Navigation Protection Program (NPP).

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