By Erica Angers, Dig In! Community Food Animator
First Nations issues are being talked about a lot as of late. Aboriginal Awareness
Week took place at UofT earlier this month, with a number of events on First
Nations culture, history, and current issues being held. For the AGO’s 1st Thursday
event this month the Ottawa-based Aboriginal group A Tribe Called Red spun
their blend of electronic and First Nations music to a sold out audience.
They are also featured on the cover of the weekly Toronto newspaper Now, with an article about the group alongside one about Idle No More, featuring a number
of prominent Aboriginal activists commenting on the importance and future of this
Having attended the Idle No More National Day of Action on December 10, 2012, as well
as attempting to follow what has been going on with this movement, it has been truly
inspirational to see people come out and show their support. There are many issues
which on which this movement is based, however it has been interesting to see how the
environment has become a central focus around which people are rallying.
The two major environmental issues at stake relate to the federal omnibus
budget legislation Bill C45 Jobs and Growth Act. The first of these is the change of the
Navigable Waters Protection Act into the Navigation Protection Act, which significantly
decreases the number of waterways that fall under federal jurisdiction. This in turn
means that there are far fewer waterways which will trigger the enactment of federal
environmental assessments when development projects are being proposed. Ultimately
these changes will exclude 97.9% of Canadian lakes and 99.9% of Canadian rivers
from federal environmental protection. This allows for large projects such, as tar sands
development, to gain approval much easier and quicker.
Another negative aspect of the bill is the change to the requirements for majority agreement when leasing out reserve land. This would allow minimal numbers of residents of a reserve to vote to allow parts of reserve lands to be leased out, in contrast to previously requiring a majority of the residents to make a decision of this nature. The objective of this would be to allow leasing agreements to become much easier to attain, including agreements for natural resource developers.
In terms of how all of this relates to food and
agriculture, loss of clean waterways has the potential to impact our food systems in a
myriad of ways. We run the risk of having farmland, and in turn our food, contaminated
with unclean water from more industrial projects. If less land is subject to environmental
assessment then more land that may be used for farmland could be used for industry. All
of this could increase the price of our food, while decreasing the quality.
While it is not yet known what the outcomes of the Idle No More movement will be, it remains important to watch it unfold.
Now, over to you: How will these changes in the way we regulate water affect Canadians’ abilities to grow and access food?