In May 2017, the Canadian government introduced Bill C-48, the proposed Oil Tanker Moratorium Act, to Parliament. The proposed Act would prohibit tankers with a specific amount of crude or persistent oil as cargo – 12,500 metric tonnes of oil or more – from stopping, loading or unloading at ports or marine installations along the coast of British Columbia north of a point adjacent to the northern tip of Vancouver Island. In essence, the proposed Act prevents oil tanker ports along the north coast. The proposed Act does not, however, prohibit oil tankers travelling between Alaska and Washington, Oregon or California, and it does not provide for restricted routes or set limits or restrictions for tankers of any size within British Columbia’s inland waters. That said, the proposed Act is an important step towards protecting the north coast of British Columbia from devastating oil spills.
Bill C-48 is currently before the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. A number of organizations are making their submissions to the Standing Committee. Those submissions may be found here. To help improve the proposed Act, Heiltsuk Nation has recommended that the proposed Act be modified so that it empowers government to pass regulations, after study and consultation with First Nations, to establish geographic limits and other limits or conditions for all tankers, large and small, to protect sensitive harvest areas and other areas of ecological concern. Heiltsuk Nation’s brief may be found here.
For more about the proposed Act, a summary by West Coast Environmental Law is here; the text of the bill is here; and the general status of the bill is here.
Lisa C. Fong and Michael Ng