The foundering Russian cargo ship

The foundering Russian cargo ship

North Coast oil tanker moratorium coming

Environmental groups along the North Coast are celebrating a mandate letter issued to the federal transport minister last week.

Environmental groups along the North Coast are celebrating a mandate letter issued to the federal transport minister last week.

Among the directives, the document makes good on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise to enact a moratorium on all oil tanker traffic off B.C.’s north coast.

“Over the course of our four-year mandate, I expect us to deliver on all of our commitments,” Mr. Trudeau wrote. “It is our collective responsibility to ensure that we fulfill our promises.”

The letter then specifically directs the minister to formalize a moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic on B.C.’s North Coast, working in collaboration with the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Minister of Natural Resources and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to develop an approach.

The Sierra Club called this mandate the final blow to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline.

In a press release from a broad coalition of northerners, environmental groups and First Nations applauded Mr. Trudeau, saying his decision is the best way to permanently protect northern ecosystem and the economy from the risk of oil spills

“A legislated oil tanker ban will send a strong message of positive change to all British Columbians, while rebuilding the trust that has been lost over almost a decade in the battle over Northern Gateway,” Caitlyn Vernon, campaigns director at Sierra Club BC said. “We want Prime Minister Trudeau to know he has tremendous support for this promise to legally protect B.C.’s north coast from oil tankers.”

The mandate came just days after the Council of Haida Nations (CHN) issued a public statement urging the Prime Minister to formalize the moratorium. The CHN is also calling for a ban on all exports of fossil field through Haida territorial waters.

A motion passed in the House of Assembly singled out the province’s LNG agenda on the North Coast and the lack of adequate provincial or federal emergency response systems.

The CHN is keeping the door open with legislators to work together to develop such a system for foundering ships.

“Should there be an accident our environment and way of life will experience significant damage,” CHN President Peter Lantin said in a press release. “Our goal is to establish a world-class, leading-edge, regional shipping management plan. In achieving this, reconciliation between the Crown and First Nations will also be advanced.”

As the Trudeau government begins the process of formalizing the moratorium on oil tankers, much of the ground work has already been laid according to Gavin Smith, a staff lawyer with West Coast Environmental Law Association.

“The new government has supported several versions of a tanker ban bill which would have amended the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 to prohibit the operation of oil tankers in Hecate Strait, Queen Charlotte Sound and Dixon Entrance.

“While those previous bills did not pass, the necessary legal avenues clearly exist to swiftly legislate an oil tanker ban when Parliament reopens, bringing binding legal protection to this area.”