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Groups call out Senate for putting a key environmental commitment at risk

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Unelected Senate must honour government commitment to a B.C. North Coast oil tanker moratorium, groups say

BRITISH COLUMBIA – Northern British Columbia communities and grassroots groups, alongside labour organizations and environmental groups throughout BC and Canada, are reacting with disbelief to the Senate Transport Committee’s recommendation to reject Bill C-48, the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act.

“The Oil Tanker Moratorium Act was an election promise that helped the government get elected, and it was passed over a year ago by the democratically-elected House of Commons,” said Des Nobels, Chair of Friends of Wild Salmon. “It’s not acceptable that, after dragging its feet on this bill, the Senate is now considering rejecting the bill at the eleventh hour.”

Bill C-48 would prohibit oil tankers carrying more than 12,500 tonnes of crude or persistent oil from stopping, loading or unloading at ports in northern British Columbia. Northern communities and supporters have worked to secure such a formal oil tanker ban on the north Pacific coast since the 1970s.

On Wednesday evening, the Senate Transport Committee decided in a tie vote to recommend against passing Bill C-48 (according to Senate rules, ties result in a negative vote). The Committee’s recommendation will go to the full Senate for a vote, with time running out before the Senate rises in June.

“Recently there has been a lot of rhetoric opposing this bill which disregards the fact that crude oil tankers have never plied the waters of BC’s north coast. This is true only because of 50 years of advocacy by Indigenous nations and local communities, with broad support from British Columbians and Canadians, to protect this remote and ecologically important place from the possibility of crude oil tanker spills,” said Gavin Smith, Staff Lawyer at West Cost Environmental Law Association. “We urge Senators to keep that in mind and cut through the rhetoric to pass Bill C-48 as written.”

“Passing Bill C-48 is a critical step in ensuring that BC’s North Coast remains healthy and productive for future generations. We urge all Senators to do their part for this incredible coastal ecosystem, and for the people and wildlife who depend on it,” said Kim Dunn, Senior Specialist, Ocean Conservation at WWF-Canada.

“The Senate is on the brink of directly disregarding a key promise of the federal government and abandoning an important commitment to protect the ocean-based economy of BC’s north coast,” said Joy Thorkelson, President of United Fishermen and Allied Workers’ Union – UNIFOR. “We and countless others have spent years supporting the intent of this bill through democratic channels. I want the Senate to know that, in a democracy, I am not okay with our decades of efforts to secure this protection being sacrificed at the stroke of the Senate’s pen. It’s time to pass Bill C-48.”

Groups supporting this statement include:

David Suzuki Foundation
Dogwood
Douglas Channel Watch
Friends of Morice Bulkley
Friends of Wild Salmon
Living Oceans Society
Pacific Wild
Prince Rupert Environmental Society
SeaLegacy
Sierra Club B.C.
SkeenaWild
T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation
United Fisherman and Allied Workers’ Union - UNIFOR
West Coast Environmental Law Association
World Wildlife Fund – Canada

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For more information, please contact:

Des Nobels, Chair, Friends of Wild Salmon
250-627-1859

Joy Thorkelson, President, United Fisherman and Allied Workers’ Union – UNIFOR
250-624-6048

Gavin Smith, Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law Association
604-601-2512

Caitlyn Vernon, Campaigns Director, Sierra Club B.C.
250-896-3500