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Urgent Action Needed to Address Concerns Over Shipbreaking in Union Bay

Urgent Action Needed to Address Concerns Over Shipbreaking in Union Bay

Urgent Action Needed to Address Concerns Over Shipbreaking in Union Bay

Two British Columbia ministers have called on the federal government to take immediate action regarding the Deep Water Recovery shipbreaking site in Union Bay. The ministers, Nathan Cullen (Water, Land and Resource Stewardship) and George Hayman (Environment and Climate Change Strategy), expressed concerns about the lack of federal regulations and the potential environmental risks posed by the operation.

Their letter, sent on February 20th, highlights the urgent need for federal involvement in regulating and responding to the public’s concerns. They argue that the current situation, with numerous entities involved from different jurisdictions, lacks clarity and effectiveness. This “hodgepodge” of regulations, involving provincial and federal ministries, local authorities, and Indigenous land rights, makes it difficult to ensure proper oversight and environmental protection.

The ministers emphasize the importance of collaboration between various levels of government and non-governmental organizations to safeguard the interests of the public, First Nations, and the environment. This call to action comes amidst growing concerns from residents, environmental groups, and the K’√≥moks First Nation.

In their letter, the ministers highlighted that the absence of appropriate federal action has endangered the environment and prompted calls for the immediate shutdown of shipbreaking operations. They emphasized that while the provincial government is striving to enforce regulations and address concerns within its jurisdiction, the federal government also bears responsibilities in overseeing such operations. They expressed concerns that Canada is not actively regulating and communicating regulatory actions pertaining to marine environment protection.

The letter was addressed to federal ministers responsible for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard, Environment and Climate Change, and Transport Canada. These ministries are tasked with safeguarding the marine environment, enforcing pollution laws, and managing vessel movements safely.

Ashlee Gerlock, a resident of Union Bay residing close to the site, voiced her worries about the safety of her family, especially her eight-year-old son. She questioned why the BC government would permit a hazardous waste site near families and children.

Residents’ Concerns and Calls for Action:

Ashlee Gerlock, a resident living near the site, expressed her fear for her family’s safety, particularly her young son. She questions why the government would allow a potential hazardous waste site to operate in close proximity to homes and children.

The lack of specific regulations for shipbreaking in Canada creates a complex situation. Deep Water Recovery’s operations are governed by various regulations from different levels of government, making it challenging to ensure compliance and hold them accountable.

Residents, organized under the “Concerned Citizens of Baynes Sound,” have actively voiced their opposition to the shipbreaking operation. They sent a letter to government officials demanding a shutdown, and the European NGO Shipbreaking Platform amplified their concerns by advocating for stricter environmental and labor standards in the industry.

Environmental and First Nations’ Concerns:

The chosen location, Baynes Sound, is an ecologically sensitive area known for its rich shellfish population. The potential for environmental contamination due to improper dismantling and handling of hazardous materials is a significant concern for many.

The K’√≥moks First Nation strongly opposes the operation, viewing it as a potential environmental disaster. They share the residents’ anxieties about the impact on the local marine environment, particularly the vital shellfish population.

Legal Challenges and Ongoing Dispute:

The Comox Valley Regional District has filed a lawsuit against Deep Water Recovery, arguing that their operations violate local land-use bylaws. The legal proceedings are ongoing, with Deep Water Recovery disputing the claims and asserting that their activities comply with permitted uses on the site.

Mark Jurisich, CEO of Deep Water Recovery, did not respond to requests for comment.

The situation in Union Bay highlights the need for a comprehensive regulatory framework for shipbreaking in Canada. Collaboration between all stakeholders, including federal and provincial governments, local authorities, First Nations, and community groups, is crucial to ensuring responsible and sustainable practices that prioritize public health, environmental protection, and respect for Indigenous rights.

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