OTTAWA – Environmental lawyers are calling Bill C-68, passed in the House of Commons, a major win for fish and their habitat.
“Getting Bill C-68 though the House is an important step toward fulfilling the federal government’s promise to modernize and restore lost protections to the Fisheries Act,” said Joshua Ginsberg, Director of Legislative Affairs at Ecojustice. “If passed into law, the bill will help achieve the broad, precautionary and enforceable legal protection necessary to safeguard Canada’s fisheries and the lakes, rivers, and oceans that sustain them.”
In February 2018, the federal government introduced a bill to amend the Fisheries Act (Bill C-68) along with Bill C-69, which replaced the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 and the National Energy Board Act with the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, and amended the Navigation Protection Act, now called the Canadian Navigable Waters Act.
“Bill C-68 restores many of the protections that were lost in the 2012 rollback of the Fisheries Act, including the general ban against harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat. It also introduces a new public registry that will, for the first time, make information on government authorizations to harm fish and fish habitat available to Canadians,” said Ginsberg.
The Fisheries and Oceans Committee, which studied the bill, made several more improvements based on recommendations made by Ecojustice and its allies. Notably, an amendment from Green party leader Elizabeth May, supported by Liberal and NDP members, adds much-needed protections for the water flows that fish depend on to survive.
“The Fisheries and Oceans committee made this good bill even better,” said Ginsberg. “Water flows are integral to protecting and restoring the health of fish populations and fish habitat. We are very pleased that they will now be protected by the law.”
Now that third reading in the House of Commons is complete, Bill C-68 will head to the Senate for an additional round of scrutiny. Ginsberg said Ecojustice and other environmental groups will be paying close attention.
“We remain committed to ensuring that Bill C-68 is passed into law, and that the government fully implements the new legislation to effectively protect our precious aquatic resources now, and well into the future.”