Now's Our Chance to 
Protect Canada's Waterways

Make sure the law protects your right to work and play in healthy waters


Every day, Canadians set out in kayaks and canoes to explore and experience the world’s largest network of waterways.

The Navigation Protection Act is meant to ensure we have access to healthy waterways by limiting development. But 99% of Canada’s waterways lost this protection in recent years and it needs to be restored.

Right now, the Canadian government is reviewing the Navigation Protection Act, giving us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make sure kayakers, canoers, hunters, fishers and Indigenous communities can access the healthy waterways that make Canada unique. Let's get it right!

Biologist Mike Pearson discovered the Navigation Protection Act falls short when waterways run through private land. 

Read Mike's story →

If you can float a kayak in a body of water in Canada, you have the right to paddle it. That’s the stated promise of the Navigation Protection Act (NPA), which governs access to Canada’s waterways. But as biologist Mike Pearson has discovered, the Act can fall short when a waterway runs through private land.

Mike is studying populations of endangered fish in British Columbia’s Fraser River Valley. Each summer, he canoes deep into their habitat, a journey requiring passage through waterways in farmers’ fields and other private land. When Mike finds his way blocked by culverts or fences, he must portage his canoe and gear around. On a few occasions, however, the landowners have denied him access to the land surrounding the obstruction. When Mike sought legal advice, he found that the Act and local trespassing laws are in conflict.

A Prohibited Portage

Tell your local newspaper the Navigation Protection Act must:


Ensure full legal protection for navigable waters

Protect the public’s right to navigate waterways

Restore environmental assessments for waterways

In June 2016, the government announced a sweeping review of federal environmental laws including Canada's environmental assessment (EA) law, the Fisheries Act, Navigation Protection Act and the National Energy Board.

This is a unique, once-in-a-generation opportunity for you to help improve the laws that protect our land, air and water and ensure they help Canada address climate change and meet its Paris Agreement commitments.

Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved. Icons: Retinaicons, Alberto Miranda, A. Maslennikov, Zlato Najdenovski, Vectors Market, Freepik. Mike Pearson photo: Mike McKinlay Productions/Wilderness Committee

Environmental Law Reform. Let’s Get it Right!

The NPA is being updated now for the first time in years, and the government is looking for public input. Ideally, says Mike, an updated Act will have clear provisions for navigating around obstructions. Another way to strengthen the Act, he says, is simply to use it. As more Canadians exercise their right to navigate, there will be more public pressure to resolve the NPA's limitations. But most importantly, the NPA should preserve the public's right to access information on the health of their waterways and the species that inhabit them.

Canada's waterways were the original highways for trade and commerce, and the NPA must better preserve their use for travel, recreation and urgent research like Mike's. The right to paddle is a right worth protecting.

West Coast Environmental Law, 200-2006 W 10th Ave, Vancouver, BC V6J 2B3