This piece by Caitlyn Vernon originally appeared in the Georgia Straight.
July 19 marks the 25th anniversary of Canada’s Parks Day, an annual event that sees thousands of people across the country celebrating Canada’s parks and protected areas. However here in B.C., despite our magnificent parks system, I’m finding it hard to celebrate.
Earlier this year, the provincial government passed the Park Amendment Act, an insidious piece of legislation that opens the door to industrial development in our parks. B.C’s provincial parks and protected areas, which cover more than 14 percent of the province, now face the possibility of a future crisscrossed with pipelines, logging roads, and resource extraction projects.
The legislation, known as Bill 4, came to the public’s attention only weeks before it was passed with little opportunity for public input and no consultation with First Nations. When Bill 4 came to light, there were protests and rallies and thousands of letters in opposition sent to the minister of environment. And in May, just two months after the contentious bill was passed, a petition with 167,000 signatures was presented to the minister, calling for a repeal of this destructive act—the largest number of names speaking up for park protection ever gathered in Canada.
People obviously care. So why would the provincial government push through such a massive legislation change with profound impacts on B.C. without the approval of the public who elected them?
It is no surprise that pressure from business and a range of resource extraction projects including fracking, LNG, and tar sands pipelines have provided much of the impetus for the Park Amendment Act and related changes to the park boundary adjustment policy.
Take Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain pipeline project, for example, that would pass through at least five provincial parks and protected areas en route to Burnaby, not counting the parks along the shoreline that tankers would have to navigate past.
In fact, the Park Amendment Act seems an attempt by the provincial government to clean up their act as they had already issued industrial park-use/research permits without the legal authority to do so.
It was already bad enough that Kinder Morgan’s pipeline proposal would bring 400 oil tankers through southern B.C. waters and result in annual greenhouse gas emissions almost twice B.C.’s officially reported emissions for 2010. It was bad enough that a major spill would be catastrophic to marine and salmon ecosystems and put at risk hundreds of thousands of jobs in the Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island.
But now on top of all that, the proposed pipeline is prompting increased harm to the natural systems of B.C.’s world-renowned parks that people throughout B.C. have worked hard to build over the last 100 years.
B.C. parks attract millions of tourists to this province every year. Pipelines most certainly do not. B.C. parks help ensure the survival of species-at-risk and fragile, rare ecosystems. Pipelines most assuredly do not.
Pipelines generate toxic, hazardous work in spill response. Instead, we can provide economic benefits to local communities by investing in parks: maintaining the trails and re-instating park naturalists and park rangers.
This summer, like many other British Columbians, I’ll be heading out to some of my favourite parks, to recharge and reconnect with this beautiful land that supports us. Whether exploring tide pools at Juan de Fuca, hiking in Tweedsmuir, or admiring alpine wildflowers in Manning, throughout my life, enjoying the many amazing parks of B.C. has been integral to who I am and what it means to me to live at the edge of this continent, between mountains and sea. Many of my most defining childhood memories were made while exploring parks and protected areas. I don’t want memories to be all that remains of B.C. parks.
On Parks Day, July 19, British Columbians concerned about the future of our parks will be fanning out across B.C. to engage with park visitors and explain the threat posed by the Park Amendment Act. We will be inviting people to sign postcards to the minister of environment, urging her to repeal the Park Amendment Act and maintain the integrity of B.C. parks.
We invite you to join us. We can pave paradise, or we can continue to protect it.