Plans needed to address debris on Haida Gwaii

Every year I try to take at least a weekend, preferably longer, to get away from it all on Haida Gwaii’s north beach.

Every year I try to take at least a weekend, preferably longer, to get away from it all on Haida Gwaii’s north beach.

It’s such a serene place to go, off the grid with no cell phone coverage or traffic or work or anything else to really worry about. You can just walk along the beach and listen to the waves crashing to your heart’s content while enjoying the natural beauty and hospitality of the islands. Other people may want to go to the big city, like Vancouver, but I’ll take a weekend away on Haida Gwaii every time.

Unfortunately north beach and much of the Haida Gwaii coastline is being threatened by something we in Canada have no control over – debris from the Japanese tsunami. Already pictures making their way online and elsewhere are showing the extent of the debris field covering the beach. It’s  mostly small stuff like foam and cans and the like, although items as large as trailers and fridges have also washed up, But looking at the massive size of the debris field making its way across the pacific it’s easy to see that this is just the tip of a very, very large iceberg.

Concerns about what to do with all the debris have been popping up for some time now, and there really needs to be a plan to deal with it much sooner than later. The reality is that there is no way the people of Haida Gwaii, or even the people of the north coast, can clean up all the debris that has already landed and is going to land on the beach. And even if they could, the landfills on the island and in the area aren’t large enough to handle it.

It’s easy for people to say it’s not their problem, especially with an area as remote as Haida Gwaii – out of sight out of mind. At the same time the federal and provincial governments are debating jurisdiction – in the water it’s federal but once it’s on land it’s provincial land.

But Haida Gwaii, in my mind, is a national treasure and should be treated as such. And while the impact of this debris may not be felt in Alberta or Saskatchewan, the Federal Government needs to be just as much a part of the clean-up campaign and solution as the province.

Regardless of who formulates and funds the plans, the two levels of government need to step forward with a real solution and a real plan to keep Haida Gwaii clean now and in the future.