This month, Bill C-48 – the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act – and Bill C-69 – the Impact Assessment Act – both finally became law! YES!!
Crude oil tankers are now formally banned from the waters of the Great Bear Rainforest!
Andrew S. Wright
I especially want to recognize and honour the leadership of Coastal First Nations in getting the tanker ban passed. These nations – the Wuikinuxv, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xaixais, Nuxalk, Gitga’at, Metlakatla, Old Massett, Skidegate, and Council of the Haida Nation – declared a ban on oil tankers in their territories years ago, under their own laws, and have been at the forefront of the movement to formalize this ban in Canadian law. I raise my hands to their leadership and their tremendous effort, with much gratitude.
And tremendous it was: the oil lobby pushback against both Bills C-48 and C-69 was unprecedented. They were working around the clock to convince senators to make hundreds of amendments that would have seen these pieces of legislation effectively gutted.
That’s what made your efforts all the more critical. Over the past several months, Sierra Club BC has called on you for help, and you stepped up in an incredible way.
Andrew S. Wright
On both Bill C-48 and Bill C-69, you made hundreds of phone calls, sent thousands of letters, tweeted senators, donated and called on your friends and family to step up too.
From our office here, I was doing the same, calling and emailing senators. In 2017, I traveled to Ottawa to present to a parliamentary committee on the tanker ban. I applied to present to the Senate, twice, but was turned down both times—despite them making space to hear from oil lobbyists. So instead I supported other groups, and helped coordinate multiple joint letters.
In the end, the Senate passed Bill C-48 by a mere 3 votes. I am convinced that it passed because of a heroic effort from people like you across BC standing up for the coast, following the leadership of Indigenous Nations, and doing everything in our power to counter the oil industry’s slick efforts.
The bills were passed with just one single day left in the federal government’s spring session before breaking for the summer, at which point they would have died – and may never have returned following this fall’s election. It was truly down to the wire.
This is a huge moment. It’s not an understatement to say Bill C-48 has been in the making for half a century. Communities in northern BC have been working since the 1970s to get a tanker ban formalized for BC’s north coast. To get it passed Sierra Club BC was in close coordination with West Coast Environmental Law, Living Oceans Society, and Northwest Institute, as well as other organizations and community groups across the north.
Andrew S. Wright
These bills aren’t perfect – Bill C-69 puts in place a strengthened environmental review process for oil and gas projects and will help ensure they don’t undermine Canada’s ability to meet our climate targets. But it doesn’t go far enough, and we’ll need to keep a close eye to ensure the federal government enacts strong regulations and applies it to a range of industrial projects.
Bill C-48 formalizes a crude oil tanker ban for the north coast of BC but doesn’t stop refined oil tankers, LNG tankers or disasters like the Nathan E. Stewart diesel spill in Heiltsuk territory. And the House of Commons approved an amendment requiring a review of Bill C-48 in five years. So we’re going to need to be ready to stand up for the coast again when the time comes.
Even so, as someone who has personally been working for years to keep oil tankers out of the Great Bear Rainforest, I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that these bills are finally passed.
Visiting the territories of the Wuikinuxv, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xaixais, Nuxalk, Gitga’at, Metlakatla, and Haida Nations through my work with Sierra Club BC has been a privilege and an honour. It is an amazing privilege to witness youth dancing in a bighouse, watch a spirit bear catch a salmon, learn with Coastal Guardian Watchmen, and come across sleeping humpback whales.
And it is a privilege that comes with a deep responsibility to do all I can to uplift their governance authority and keep oil tankers off the coast. Thank you for joining with me on this journey of respecting Indigenous leadership and defending the coast.
So for now, let’s celebratethis victory. And tomorrow, let’s commit to working together to ensure the values these pieces of legislation represent are upheld in the strongest possible way.