Oil Tanker Moratorium Act—Fifth Anniversary

By: The Hon. Peter Harder

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Hon. Peter Harder: Honourable senators, I rise to recognize that this Friday, June 21, marks the fifth anniversary of the passage of Bill C-48, Canada’s North Pacific oil tanker ban. I was honoured to work with Senator Jaffer, the sponsor of that bill, which was of great importance to British Columbia and many First Nations of the Pacific Northwest.

Bill C-48 formalized a policy, established in 1985 by former prime minister Brian Mulroney, aiming to prevent a major oil spill in one of the world’s last great natural ecosystems. B.C.’s northern coast includes one quarter of the world’s remaining intact coastal temperate rainforest and the most biologically productive seas on our planet. The region is home to giant red cedars, salmon, spirit bears, cougars, bald eagles and over 25 species of marine mammals.

Today, I will share with you a statement from Chief Marilyn Slett, President of the Great Bear Initiative, representing the eight First Nations on British Columbia’s north and central coasts and on Haida Gwaii, who helped guide the Senate in passing Bill C-48. She said:

It is now five years since Bill-C48 was enacted. During this time, our nations have worked with the governments of British Columbia and Canada to protect the natural environment, mitigate and adapt against climate change, revitalize coastal fisheries, clean up plastics and abandoned fishing gear, create jobs for youth and develop a landmark Marine Protected Area Network Action Plan. Our work leads Canada’s marine protection plan commitments of 25×25 and 30×30.

During the past five years, there have been no major oil spills, but an Exxon Valdez-type spill would be absolutely catastrophic for our First Nations, British Columbia and Canada. We remain vigilant against this risk.

In the spirit of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the reconciliation agenda of both Crown governments, we thank Parliament for protecting our ancestral homelands and waters through Bill C-48, which upholds our constitutional and inherent rights.

No other governments and communities are as directly dependent upon and tied to the marine environment as we are.

Senators, long may this law protect the Great Bear Rainforest and its surrounding seas in respect of the wishes of this territory’s ancestral guardians, the Coastal First Nations.

Five years ago, this bill was born amid high rhetoric and great contention in this chamber. Today, it is accepted for the environmental protection it provides. Maybe there is a lesson here for us today.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

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