Justin Trudeau reaffirms his commitment to water law reform

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday reiterated his commitment to water law reform while formalizing the establishment of the new Canada Water Agency’s headquarters in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Mr. Trudeau reiterated that revising the law governing the use and development of this natural resource in Canada is his government’s priority.

“The threats and realities facing our environment have changed since then [la loi] was written in 1970,” he said Wednesday at a news conference in the Manitoban capital.

“Updating this legislation is about making sure we have the tools to work with provinces and territories to protect and restore shared waters,” added Prime Minister Trudeau.

He gave no details on the changes that will be made to the Canada Water Resources Act.

The current law provides a framework for working with provinces and territories in the conservation, development and use of Canada’s water resources.

The legislative reform is also intended to address the new realities surrounding freshwater in Canada, including the impact of climate change and the importance of indigenous peoples’ rights.

“We have already taken unprecedented steps to protect our waters here in Canada. While less than 1% of our marine and coastal areas were protected in 2015, today that area has grown to over 14%. But there is still work to be done,” said Mr. Trudeau.

Modernizing the law will be one of the tasks of Canada’s future water agency, the creation of which the prime minister formalized on Wednesday. Mr. Trudeau did not specify which Winnipeg area the organization will be based in or when it will be operational.

The federal government’s budget, presented earlier this year, provided funds for the agency’s formation and proposed its headquarters in Winnipeg.

The new organization must therefore benefit from a budget of US$85.1 million over five years, followed by support of US$21 million per year.

In a press release, Ottawa said more details about the agency’s priorities and mandate will be announced soon. It also states that “By the end of 2023, a bill will be presented to establish an autonomous body that will report to the Minister for Environment and Climate Change”.

In addition to the revision of the Water Resources Act, it is at least certain that the new authority will also have to lead the implementation of the main measures of the Freshwater Action Plan.

This program includes a $420 million investment over 10 years for Great Lakes conservation initiatives.

Mr. Trudeau also recalled that the 2023 budget includes an amount of more than 750 million, a significant portion of which will support work to monitor, assess and restore important water bodies over the next decade.

The St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes are among the areas that will benefit from these investments.

Before making the water conservation announcement on Wednesday, Mr Trudeau met with Aboriginal students at a high school in the morning. He was scheduled to attend a public meeting that evening.

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Juliet Ingram

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