Vancouver, BC – The Coastal First Nations (CFN) supports the Trudeau government’s request that the Senate pass Bill C-48, the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act, in its amended form so that northern BC waters will be safe from oil spills.
“Time is running out and we need the Liberals promise to be kept,” said Chief Marilyn Slett, CFN President. The amended bill will provide an opportunity for Parliament to assess any new developments and to hear from all interested stakeholders.
The Senate completed its study and debate on Bill C-48, a fulfillment of an election promise made in 2015, and recommended that it be passed in an amended form to the House of Commons last week. The Bill was included in both the Minister’s mandate letter and the Speech from the Throne, and was passed by elected members of the House of Commons in May 2018 with support of the Liberal Party of Canada, the NDP, the Green Party and the Groupe parlementaire Québécois. Only the Conservatives opposed it.
The Bill will provide an unprecedented level of environmental protection for the Northern coast of British Columbia, including the Great Bear Rainforest—a global ecological treasure that contains a quarter of the world’s remaining temperate rainforests and is one of the most pristine and wild places left in Canada.
However, CFN disagrees with Senate’s recommendation to hold a Regional Assessment starting 180 days after Bill C-48 comes into force. “We recognize that the Senate’s amendment was a well-intentioned attempt to find a compromise between supporters and opponents of the moratorium, but the Regional Assessment is unnecessary given the requirement for a Parliamentary Review after five years,” says Slett, who adds that the proposed approach would also divide responsibility between the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Environment, which will blur lines of authority and lead to less accountability.
Slett says residents of Northern BC, and Coastal First Nations communities in particular, are suffering from “consultation fatigue.” There have been numerous reviews, studies and consultations on an oil tanker ban since the 1970’s.
The Great Bear Rainforest is still largely intact due to special measures taken by both the federal and provincial governments. Bill C-48 will be complementary to these efforts, as well as the longstanding Voluntary Tanker Exclusion Zone Agreement between Canada and the United States.
Unlike other coasts in Canada, there is no existing tanker traffic on the North Coast and formalizing the moratorium will not disrupt any existing jobs or economic activity in the region. It will help protect existing industries, including fisheries, aquaculture and eco-tourism.
Bill C-48 will help preserve the cultural and spiritual way of life of coastal First Nations. As such, it is part of the Government of Canada’s larger commitment to reconciliation with First Nations.
For more information:
Chief Marilyn Slett
President, Coastal First Nations