Good afternoon, everyone.
I will call the meeting to order as the vice-chair on behalf of the chair. I know that she is going to be here momentarily.
I'm calling to order meeting number 90, pursuant to the order of reference of Tuesday, December 5, 2017.
We are studying Bill , an act respecting wrecks, abandoned, dilapidated or hazardous vessels and salvage operations.
We have a number of witnesses with us for this first hour of our meeting.
We have, from the Pan Pacific Law Corporation, John Weston.
Representing Sunshine Coast Regional District Board is Frank Mauro, who is director of Area A, Pender Harbour and Egmont. That is by video conference. We also have Ian Winn, director of Area F, West Howe Sound, also by video conference.
Joining us representing Washington State Department of Natural Resources, we have Kyle C. Murphy, assistant division manager of the aquatic resources division, by video conference. We also have Troy Wood, manager of the derelict vessel removal program, by video conference as well.
We will start this portion of the meeting with Mr. Weston.
Thank you, Mr. Weston.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Since there's some reference to private members' bills in our discussion today, I would be remiss if I did not draw members' attention to Bill , which was passed in 2014, thus creating National Health and Fitness Day, which unleashed, among other things, ski day on the Hill, which will be held this Wednesday. At noon on that day, Nancy Greene Raine will be there, as will the Governor General. You're all invited, no matter what your level of skiing ability is.
When I first came to Parliament as a member in 2008, I thought law-making was about passing bills. I've learned through processes like today's that law-making is so much more than that. Thank you for honouring me with your invitation to testify. For four reasons, it means much, as today's protests reflect important values and positive aspects of our democracy that often get overlooked. I'm going to cover those reasons and then touch on one or two of the refinements that could make Bill move from good to great.
First, the law you're reviewing is not only the brainchild of legislators or bureaucrats; it's also the results of earnest pleas by people of this great country, people who saw their treasured oceans desecrated by the litter of irresponsible boat owners who could abandon their boats with impunity.
Second, it reflects the influence of individual legislators in our system. With the author of the reform act on your committee—Michael Chong—you may be more mindful than other committees of the importance of the role of individual legislators. Though Bill is a government bill, it stands on the shoulders of private members' bills the House considered and passed, such as that of Ms. Malcolmson. As detailed more thoroughly in my written submission, which you should have received, two NDP members, including Ms. Malcolmson, engaged the House with their bills, as did I with my Bill .
Third, the bill you consider today reflects an amalgam of cross-party views, not just those of the party in power. At a time when Canadians bemoan hyperpartisanship in Canada and the U.S., you should take pride in promoting the open-mindedness demonstrated here.
Fourth, and most important, the bill promotes responsibility. It's a key value often lost in the cut and thrust of policy-making. We speak often about freedom. I'm no exception. I spoke in these hallowed halls frequently about freedom of speech and freedom of conscience and I joined the legal profession motivated by my interest in constitutional freedoms, but as Auschwitz survivor Viktor Frankl said, freedom without responsibility is dangerous.
The book I published last year touches on stories with which many of you are familiar. Above all, it's a focus on values, including responsibility. The book exhorts political and non-political leaders to be “on”. In fact, On! is the book's title. To be really on, we must cultivate our sense of responsibility.
The core of this bill is an emphasis on accountability. As far as I know, my bill was the first-ever legislative instrument that contemplated the imposition of jail time and fines for people who abandoned vessels. Bill expands upon that principle and increases the consequences. Thank you, Liberal Party friends, for seizing on such an important part of Conservative philosophy: personal accountability.
By now you know that I support Bill . It's a happy moment when a person associated with one party supports a bill proposed by another. At the risk of tarnishing this happy moment, I have to point out that it took the Liberals 52 pages of text to accomplish what I sought to achieve with one page, a decline in efficiency of some 5,000%. I'm just saying.
Beyond my general support for the bill, I do have 16 recommendations that might improve it, which are listed on pages 5 through 7 of the written submission that you received. There are three general ones and 13 others that arose in my section-by-section review of the bill.
A couple of the key ones are that, first, it would be much easier to identify boat ownership if Canada consolidates and improves our boat registry databases and, second, that abandoned vessels are more a Transport than a Fisheries issue, and the Coast Guard is more a Transport arm of government than an aspect of Fisheries.
The Canadian Coast Guard ought to reside within the Transport Canada ministry where it used to be, not with Fisheries and Oceans. If you're unsure about this, just consider which committee is reviewing Bill as we speak today: it's your committee, Transport, not Fisheries. While a reorganization to achieve a more streamlined Coast Guard lies beyond the ambit of Bill , I do recommend that such a change be considered.
I see that my time is almost up, but if this committee desires, I can, in under two minutes, later run through 14 more recommendations to help move Bill from good to great.
I believe that positive values have motivated those who have contributed to this bill, not partisan self-promotion. It is not in self-promotion but because I really believe what I say that I will close with a quote from my own book: “For the good of society, let's pray for leaders who model these values, for people who pursue the community's interest over their own, who seek leadership for the good of the people they serve.”
In supporting this bill, you're doing just that. Thank you.
Thank you very much for inviting us to participate in this very important discussion.
I will repeat what Mr. Weston said. This is a good bill, something we've been waiting for for a long time to address issues that we on the Sunshine Coast have been dealing with, as has the entire coast of B.C.
I'm going to get right to the introductions and speak a bit to some general items.
What we see, and as has been mentioned, is the jurisdictional issue. The major problem with current regulations is initiating action, because of the many jurisdictions involved, including federal ministries and, in some cases, several provincial ministries. It makes it difficult for the public and for local governments—and I'll speak for local governments—when, in order to get action on derelict vessels, they are shuffled from ministry to ministry and in some cases to provincial jurisdictions. This bill goes a long way toward improving that.
The bill does seem to identify Transport Canada as the lead ministry, obviously. This is initiated by Transport Canada. However, the document, in subclause 124(1) and in other places, makes reference to "may notify the minister responsible for administering that provision", or words to that effect. I think that we would like to see, in general, the burden taken off the public to interpret where reporting.... We want to make sure that they don't have to navigate an interjurisdictional maze. A major improvement would be that the lead interface ministry would do the required navigation through the jurisdictions, if the jurisdictions need to be taken care of.
In a similar way, subclause 6(1) should be clarified. It refers to “agreements and arrangements for carrying out the purposes of this Act...” and would authorize a provincial government, a local authority, a council, or a regional district to do the work.
I see this as positive. I believe these vessels end up at our front door, and the local governments have a major concern, as mentioned previously. I think, though, that there should be some commitment—and I'm not sure that it should be part of the bill—to compensate local governments for doing that. They don't have the resources to be able to undertake the work.
I want to talk about the transitional program as the introduction, too. The Transport Canada transitional program right now—and I think it's the abandoned boats program, which is part of the oceans protection plan— provides short-term funding for legacy abandoned vessels, but it doesn't meet the need in rural areas. There are many, many vessels in rural areas where that program only provides 75% of the contribution to remove the vessel. These rural areas are left to the devices of volunteer groups, and they don't have the capacity come up with the required contributions.
I'll go to Mr. Winn for some more comments.
Clause 90 is one part that is troublesome and a little concerning for us because clause 90 talks about the fine structure. I believe the fines are good and of course very appropriate, but in many cases the fines are too low. They need to really address the responsibility of the vessel owners and the problems. Really what we want is a fine that is substantial enough that it's not considered as just being a cost of doing business. We'd like to see a review of that fine structure.
Paragraph 5(2)(c) speaks to the “vessels that are on location for the purposes of engaging in the exploration, exploitation or production of mineral resources”, and they are excluded. Our concern is that if they are adrift, under this act they would be considered a hazardous vessel. It should be spelled out in the act that these vessels could be excluded, except where there is a consideration that they'd be a hazardous vessel adrift.
The last item is clause 29. It speaks to the size of vessels as being 5.5 metres, and specifically it refers to them as primarily human-powered or wind-powered, such as a sailboat. That length should be considered a smaller length, such as 4.8 metres. There's a big difference in a sailboat length of 5.5 metres and 4.8 metres. Also, the other thing is that even on a small boat there are hazardous materials. They often have a small diesel engine. They'll have fuel. They'll have a lead acid battery and maybe propane tanks. There should be a consideration that even on a small vessel there are hazardous materials.
Hello. My name is Troy Wood. I manage the derelict vessel removal program for the Department of Natural Resources here in Washington.
The program, as Mr. Murphy said, has been around for 15 years. We've removed over 760 vessels by 50 authorized public entities throughout the state in that amount of time. We currently have a little over 160 vessels on our vessels of concern list that we're trying to get to whenever funds and availability of personnel manage that. We also help our authorized public entities in their removals because we realize that our priority threes and fours may be their priority ones, so we assist them in removing vessels and then we reimburse 90% of their costs if they follow our statutes.
Having said that, we give out $1 million per year to deal with these vessels. It doesn't go very far, but it allows us to remove a little under 100 vessels per biennium in the derelict vessel removal program. However, we get above 100 vessels by having our vessel turn-in program, which is our prevention arm of the derelict vessel removal program. We accept vessels. We've had that program accept up to 94 vessels per biennium. We were able to get above the 100 vessels per biennium by doing that as well.
I'd like to save my time for any questions you may have, so I'd like to turn it back over to you.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I want to welcome our witnesses here today. Thank you so much for joining us and for providing us with your testimony on this study.
I will be asking questions of my former colleague, Mr. Weston, and that might not come as any surprise. I know that there will be an opportunity to ask questions of the other witnesses who are here.
First, I want to thank you, John, for your very detailed written submission, as well as for the presentation that you made to us here today. I know that the work you have done on this issue certainly raised awareness of the problem in our own caucus, and I believe it has complemented the work and the awareness that has been raised in other caucuses, both by NDP members of Parliament and by Liberal members of Parliament.
Thank you to all of you, because I know you're all in the room today.
John, you briefly mentioned the boat registry as one of your recommendations. While a formal registry of abandoned vessels is a missing component in Canada's assessment of the issue, it is assumed that the majority of the abandoned vessels are personal pleasure craft. I would ask that maybe you speak to that. Then I want to know if you think there is an educational component that needs to be undertaken to prevent pleasure craft from being abandoned, and whether or not you have any suggestions as to where that awareness or education would be best placed.
Thank you for your questions.
I think it was a classic aspect of being a legislator that when I embarked on the project, I knew very little about boats or abandoned vessels. It was people like Frank Mauro who educated me, people who represented constituents up and down the British Columbia coast—constituents who numbered in the thousands, if you took all the people represented who really cared about this issue.
You asked two or three things. One was the question of registry.
What I learned was that there are three or even four different registries in Canada, and none of them are comprehensive. They're inconsistent. Clearly, one of the underlying issues in this problem is identifying who the owner is. One of the witnesses has mentioned that a problem in the legislation is that the fines don't properly, perhaps, discourage the abandonment of vessels. However, you have to get right down to who owns the vessel, and predictably, the fines can only be visited upon the owner if you know who the owner is. That seems self-evident, and I did notice that it didn't seem to be in the legislation. I think that this would improve it.
The education piece, certainly, is important. I think that was something else that I learned through this process: that it's not all about passing a bill. This process educated many people about the the issue. As a member of Parliament from Saskatchewan, you probably learned a lot about abandoned vessels that you didn't know beforehand. As legislators, I think we learn that educating the public, even in the unlikely event that this bill doesn't get passed, brings a new awareness about the problem that is going to lead to better consequences. Education is good, and I think it ought to be formalized.
It's good to see some allies in the room here. I see John Weston, the only Conservative to support my predecessor Jean Crowder's version of this bill. Thank you for that.
I also see Frank Mauro; at local government, we've been lobbying the province and federal government a bunch of times over the years, when I was elected locally, so it's great to have your voice here.
Also John Weston endorsed my bill, , which unfortunately was stopped in its tracks back in the fall.
It's so rich that we've got the Washington State program here, and I hope the other members will shoot as many questions their way as we can, because these guys have been doing it for all this time. I'm going to focus my questions on you. I'll just let you know that last week, when we had the Minister of Transport here, he was saying one of the programs that the federal government here has been looking at is Washington State's, so you're coming in with some good credibility.
One of the pieces in my bill that wasn't able to advance and is missing from the government's bill is the vessel turn-in program that you described as your prevention program, so here are my questions to you. Do you wish that you'd waited to bring that in? To what extent was it an integral and vital part of your overall abandoned vessel program? Also, tell us a little bit more about the results that accrue when the government decides to legislate and fund a vessel's end of life.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you, all of you, for being here this afternoon.
I hear a lot of comments being made about past bills and efforts to deal with this issue, and I appreciate those efforts. Here we are today, taking it to the next level, and in fact getting it done.
With that said, I'm very much interested in both the process and in mitigating the financial implications to the taxpayer. I want to go to those who are experienced, those who are actually in the thick of it right now in terms of adding the substance to the effort, adding the guts to ensuring that this is dealt with.
To the folks from Washington, I want go to some of the comments you made earlier to get more specific. My question is on orphan vessels. These are vessels for which we don't have the luxury of going after somebody to pay the bill or enter into a process to deal with these vessels. I have two questions.
One, what method would you recommend to ensure that orphan vessels don't exist, and that we actually get to the folks beforehand? That way, when a vessel is abandoned, we can—whether through a VIN number that's attached to the vessel itself, as with a car, or by some other means—identify those people so we can go after them directly and mitigate the negative financial implications to the taxpayer.
Second, with respect to some of the funding programs available to you, you have fees that are paid by recreational vessel registrations, visitor permit fees, and fees to certain commercial vessels. Which of these three fees contributes the most to the derelict vessel removal account? How was it determined that these three sources of funding should be used for the derelict vessel removal account, and how has it been accepted by the boating community?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
On the registration, when you register your vessel in Washington State, you get a registration sticker that you're required to put on the bow of your vessel or on the window of your vessel. Through that system, which is administered by the Washington State Department of Licensing, we're able to go back and look at owner history. If we do find an orphaned boat or an abandoned boat that hasn't been registered for many years, we can go back in that system to determine who was the last registered owner. Our statute allows us to go after that last registered owner. Even if the vessel hasn't been registered for five years, we can go back to the last person who registered it and try to work our way forward. We ask if that person sold it and if they have documentation of who they sold it to. It's a bit of an investigative process to determine who the owners are. It's all tied to the state-wide registration system that lets us know who the last registered owner was.
In terms of the funding, the biggest source of funding of those three sources is the $3 recreational fee, which gives us almost $700,000 per biennium on average. The visitor fee is a very small part of it. The fee on commercial vessels is about a quarter of a million dollars per biennium.
I believe the fee really came about as a recommendation from the boating community. Before the program was in place, there was this problem with derelict vessels—frankly, there still is—being abandoned in marinas and at port facilities, so it was an issue that was affecting the boating community. They really supported a way for that problem to be addressed. They also really supported the money that they pay into their registration going to a program that supports their community and their use of the environment. They've been very supportive all along. Even when we bumped it from a dollar up to three dollars, they were still supportive and didn't oppose that increase in the registration. The key is that they see it as a program that directly affects their boating lifestyle and their boating enjoyment.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I'd like to ask the witnesses their opinion on clause 24 of the bill. Clause 24 requires a vessel of 300 gross tonnage and above to carry a certificate of insurance if entering or leaving a port in Canadian waters. The reason I want to ask about this is that some people have suggested that the cut-off of 300 tonnes may be too high, and the committee may want to look at amending the bill to reduce the tonnage from 300 down to another number.
I was just doing some very basic research here, and 300 tonnes is a big boat. For example, the old Mill Bay ferry that went across the Saanich Peninsula to Mill Bay was only half of 300 tonnes. Half of New Brunswick's and Newfoundland and Labrador's ferry fleets are under 300 tonnes. The Glenora ferry that takes people and cars from Prince Edward County to the mainland, to an Ontario provincial highway, is only 200 tonnes. The Toronto Island ferry is only 180 gross registered tonnes.
It seems to me that we're missing a lot of boats that wouldn't be required to carry insurance to fund the removal of these derelict and abandoned vessels if we're setting 300 gross tonnes for the requirement to carry insurance. I'm interested to hear what members of the witness panel have to say about that 300-tonne limit.
Well, we heard from Washington that they have a convention, I think, or are trying to impose a convention, that all marinas and vessel owners have some form of identification and maybe insurance. It would be worth knowing what level of expense and inconvenience is imposed upon a boat owner to get such a thing.
The other part about the clause you refer to is that it refers, I believe, to the international convention. Part of my comments are that there isn't enough coordination between the international convention and this law. Nowhere in the law does it say what prevails in the event of a conflict between the international convention and this law.
Furthermore, a lot of the definition clauses could be tightened up. With “owner”, for instance, in clause 15, it's not clear whether the consequences of the act have to be imposed against corporate owners in clause 12, as the act intends. The whole notion of abandonment for a period of less than two years is not clearly defined in subclauses 32(2) and 32(3). I think there are areas that could be tightened up overall to achieve the stated goals of the act.
Again, I think it would be worth hearing from Washington on how they deal with this matter of insurance.
Thank you, Chair, and thank you to the witnesses for being here today.
When I introduced M-40, which was the motion that was the framework for the legislation, I actually followed Mr. Weston's bill and had a good chance to look at your bill that was put forward, as well as and of course what was happening in Washington. Congratulations on all of the good work that you're doing there
From the east coast perspective, it's a bit different, because the abandoned vessels that we're dealing with on the east coast are not necessarily pleasure craft. There are maybe some, but for the most part they're large navy vessels, old Coast Guard vessels, industrial fishing vessels, so it's a bit different in terms of removal. Do you know of any place, other coastal states—I'm talking to the people in Washington right now—that have programs similar to yours that deal with larger vessels?
Thank you for inviting me to take part in today's discussion. I am pleased to be here on behalf of both the Atlantic Policy Congress and my community of Membertou to speak to Bill .
As the original caretakers of our lands and waters, we, the Mi'kmaq, know that we have both rights and expertise to share that take into account the appropriate methods and the impacts that decommissioning and removal have on our environment.
For your information, according to our treaties, the Mi'kmaq have first rights to salvage operations. However, over time that has not been the process that has taken place in many cases.
This is why meeting with you today is so important for us and the Mi'kmaq population of more than 22,000 people across Nova Scotia and the indigenous people across Canada. We recognize the great opportunity in economic development for first nations regarding the decommissioned, abandoned, and hazardous vessels in our waters. Because the Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq have extensive experience and history in the fisheries, we see working with you, our government, as an open and ongoing dialogue about the advancement of Bill and an opportunity to learn how we can be instrumental in gaining this opportunity.
The economic and employment opportunities that it would and could provide for us would be incredibly beneficial.
I would recommend a serious consideration of the tendering process itself. While I am not suggesting that we would always have the capacity to take on these large-scale projects all on our own, I do ask that you put forth requirements for indigenous participation and partnerships. Here in Cape Breton, for example, the Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq and Membertou have land on the Sydney waterfront. Recently we've seen organizations come in under massive contracts to facilitate these operations, and we haven't even been consulted, let alone been a part of the project. This cannot continue.
I ask today that you take away from our conversations the consideration of creating an inclusive procurement process and of ensuring that indigenous people are involved in the tendering process through Bill . We recognize the importance of this bill, which will further provide guidance and protection for the future.
We want to make recommendations to you to move this bill forward. We would welcome the opportunity to be a part of your further discussions, but also to play a pivotal role in helping to achieve the goals of the bill in a safe and efficient manner, all while being included from the beginning.
Our people have long since used these waters for survival and to make a living for our families. I encourage you to consider having us at the table for further discussions, and when the time comes to properly take care of these operations, I hope you will consider having indigenous people working to protect our waters as we've done since time immemorial.
First, I'd like to acknowledge that we are on Algonquin traditional lands, and that we want to respect their sovereignty.
I also want to mention that I'm replacing Chief Bob Gloade, who had a medical emergency yesterday. He was supposed to appear on our behalf as one of our co-chairs, and I hope that we can send prayers for a speedy recovery to him and his family.
Chief Terry mentioned our treaties. I would like to read an excerpt from the treaty of 1752, the Peace and Friendship Treaty, between His Majesty the King and Jean Baptiste Cope. Article 7 specifically says:
That the Indians shall use their best Endeavours to save the lives and goods of any People Shipwrecked on this Coast, where they resort, and shall Conduct the People saved to Halifax with their Goods, & a Reward adequate to the Salvadge shall be given them.
This actual treaty and this passage itself can be found on the Indigenous and Northern Affairs website.
We understand that with Bill , the Government of Canada seeks to strengthen liabilities of owners, prohibit abandonment, enhance federal powers to undertake assessments, introduce compliance and enforcement regimes, and clarify the roles of Transport Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Coast Guard.
The Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities must consider the points that follow.
The Mi'kmaq and Maliseet are signatories of the treaties of peace and friendship with the crown. The treaties are pre-Confederation nation-to-nation agreements, and Canada has officially recognized the treaties of 1752 and 1760-1761 through court cases.
The Mi'kmaq and Maliseet have never ceded any territorial lands or waters to the crown or Canada. As original inhabitants of territory spanning Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, P.E.I., Newfoundland, and Quebec, Mi'kmaq and Maliseet enjoy aboriginal treaty rights that originate from our inherent rights.
According to Canadian law, the crown has the fiduciary duty to consult with first nations chiefs on any legislation that may impact aboriginal and treaty rights, and this includes Bill .
The treaty of 1752 identifies and acknowledges a critical role of Mi'kmaq people in rescue and salvage operations of shipwrecks on the Atlantic coast.
Bill proposes new authorities to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard with respect to wrecks and abandoned vessels for salvage and environmental damage. This includes fees and penalties. These authorities and the roles of first nations must be discussed in full consultation with Mi'kmaq and Maliseet.
Bill proposes new registries for vessel owners, along with associated fees. Any new regulations, policies, administration, or costs must be discussed in full consultation with Mi'kmaq and Maliseet.
Economic opportunities to perform vessel deconstruction, recovery, salvage, and transport must give special consideration and preference to Mi'kmaq and Maliseet enterprises.
Environmental and economic impacts of shipwrecks and abandoned vessels in unceded traditional territories must also take into consideration the social and cultural impacts to Mi'kmaq and Maliseet people. This must include, but not be limited to, indigenous traditional knowledge, which has been expressed in Canada's proposed Bill, the impact assessment act.
Thank you for your consideration.
Thank you, Madam Chair and committee members, for the important work you are doing for Canada.
I would like to acknowledge our meeting on Algonquin Anishinabe territory, and also recognize the Coast Salish territory where I live and which I am mandated by the Province of British Columbia to preserve and protect.
I represent the 26 elected trustees of the Islands Trust, who represent 35,000 residents and property owners of British Columbia's Gulf Islands. The Islands Trust is a federation of 13 special-purpose local government bodies, established in 1974 by the Province of British Columbia through the Islands Trust Act.
Through the act, we are mandated to preserve and protect the trust area and its unique amenities and environment, in co-operation with others, for all British Columbians.
The Gulf Islands are an ecologically rich and internationally renowned tourism destination. As a professional scuba diver and a mariner, I have seen many a sunken or scuttled boat, as well as numerous derelict or abandoned vessels along our shores.
I would like to acknowledge member of Parliament Sheila Malcolmson for her years of tireless work on this issue, and would like to thank this government for creating Bill .
Three and a half million people live in the area surrounding the Islands Trust. There are hundreds of thousands of pleasure craft in the region. Many of them are lovingly maintained older vessels, but others are beyond hope.
A 2014 Transport Canada study identified our region as a hot spot in Canada for abandoned vessels. We are very concerned about small fibreglass and concrete boats that are reaching the end of their service life.
What is the underlying cause for abandoned and derelict vessels? I would suggest the lure of the sea. This powerful attraction for adventure and exploration draws the bold and the foolhardy. All too often, many of those drawn to the siren's song seem to not have the awareness, the skills, the experience, and the resources to properly care for an old boat. A lack of clear regulation does not help.
It is a regular occurrence in the bays and harbours of our islands to witness a known at-risk vessel sink at its moorings after the winter storms, leaking fuel and oil and taking batteries, garbage, paint, and other toxins to the nurseries of our sensitive marine environment.
One of the 450 islands within the Islands Trust federation, the municipality of Bowen Island, has dedicated 400 hours of staff time and more than $75,000 since 2014 to removing more than four tonnes of debris related to boats, wrecks, and mooring buoys. This is a significant and unsustainable cost to a small local government.
These vessels have little or no value and are readily transferred to those drawn to the sea. Circumstances force these vessels to go to a mooring or to set anchor. Ultimately, they are abandoned or blown onto a beach in a storm, or worse, scuttled in the dead of night.
The lack of vessel registration and mooring buoy management promotes abandonment. We need to put an end to this lack of accountability of irresponsible boat owners.
The Islands Trust has been advocating for long-term solutions to abandoned vessels since 2010. We and others have suggested the following strategies: create a funding mechanism, such as a fee on vessel registration; enhance licensing and registration for all vessels and validate the existing data; create a vessel turn-in program; establish public education programs and vessel product stewardship programs; and confirm the responsibilities of the agencies having authority over derelict and abandoned vessels.
I ask you to strengthen Bill with actions that focus on preventing abandonment. For example, establish a program of review and approval under the Navigable Waters Protection Act for private mooring buoy registration, and actively conduct enforcement; perform regular mooring buoy sweeps with other agencies; inventory and monitor vessels at risk; provide opportunities for appropriate disposal of old boats; and establish a permanent program beyond the 2017-2022 funding.
We appreciate the intent of the work behind Bill . This is a big step in the right direction and responds to many of our concerns. We're glad to see that charges have been laid recently in British Columbia against offenders who deliberately scuttled their vessels. Successfully getting the message out that the government is serious about penalizing offenders and helping those who ask for help will, I believe, reduce the occurrence of abandonment.
Transport Canada's plans for improving pleasure boat registration and developing an ongoing revenue stream for removals is crucial to long-term success in preventing abandonment, just as the Washington State derelict vessel removal program has greatly assisted San Juan County in managing abandoned boats.
Thank you for your leadership on this issue, and thank you for inviting me here today.
Thank you very much, and thank you for this invitation to appear before you on unceded Algonquin territory.
My name is Anna Johnston. I'm a staff lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law.
West Coast has been a non-profit for 40 years now, helping British Columbians protect their environment through law. We work with coastal communities, local governments, and first nations to strengthen environmental laws protecting their lands and waters, and I am truly honoured to be before you today.
I'd like to commend this government for taking action on the issue of wrecked, abandoned, dilapidated vessels, and for all of you, it's really been great to see the parties come together to move this bill forward and strengthen it together.
Abandoned vessels cause significant environmental, safety, economic, and aesthetic concern to coastal communities in British Columbia. I believe the same 2014 inventory that my friend here just referred to identified 245 vessels of concern in British Columbia, and those are only the ones that were reported by local governments. Of these, 165 were pleasure craft or sailboats, so the majority of the problem that is faced in British Columbia is not from large commercial vessels. They tend to be smaller pleasure craft spilling fuel and decaying in local harbours and waters.
Bill is a good start toward helping with this issue. I have a few suggestions that, if implemented, I believe will help strengthen the bill and allow it to fulfill the government's goal of more effectively dealing with derelict, abandoned, and wrecked vessels.
My first suggestion is to better ensure that the goal of dealing with these vessels is met by strengthening the discretionary nature of the act and actually requiring ministers and receivers of wreck to take action.
The second recommendation I have is related to the first. To the degree that discretion remains under the act, in my experience, when the government doesn't take action on an issue, the public wants to see why. Therefore, I would recommend that there be an amendment to explicitly enable the public to request ministers or receivers of wreck to deal with, or authorize them to deal with, abandoned, derelict, and wrecked vessels, and to combine that ability to request with a mandatory response that is made publicly available within a prescribed period of time.
My third recommendation is to better enable the tracking down of vessel owners, as has been mentioned here before, by requiring registration of pleasure craft.
Do I have a couple of minutes? Can I elaborate on those points?
With regard to the discretionary nature of the act, most of the powers of the minister and receivers of wreck under the act to deal with wrecked, abandoned, and dilapidated vessels are discretionary in nature, calling into question whether or not these decision-makers will actually take the necessary actions to address the backlog of wrecked, abandoned, and dilapidated vessels in Canadian waters.
For example, subclause 30(3) states that if an owner of a dilapidated vessel leaves it stranded, grounded, anchored, or moored for at least 60 days contrary to subclause 30(1), the minister may take measures or monitor the situation or order that measures be taken. I would recommend that these kinds of provisions be strengthened to require the minister and also the receivers of wreck to take action within a prescribed period of time or else to justify why action is not being taken.
Combined with this, my second recommendation is that, to the degree the discretion remains in the act, the bill include specific provisions that would allow any person to request ministers or a receiver of wreck to deal with abandoned, derelict, or wrecked vessels, or to authorize them to do so.
Some provisions to this degree do exist in the bill. For example, there's a requirement in subclause 58(1) to report a wreck. However, when I looked through the bill, I didn't see, with regard to many of the other provisions enabling ministers to take action with regard to these vessels, an ability for the public to explicitly request that it happen.
Of course, the public would always be able to make this request, but the reason you want to put it in legislation is that you want to pair it with the requirement that the minister or the receiver of wreck provide a public response to that request in order to retain a little public accountability.
I was going to talk about the registration of pleasure craft, but I think that topic has been amply covered.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I'd like to welcome all of our witnesses here. Thank you so much for joining us.
It is interesting to note that this is not the first bill tabled in the House and then referred to this committee on which first nations witnesses have indicated that they have not been consulted.
I guess I would pose my first question to you, Mr. Ken Paul, and I only say Ken Paul because we have Chief Paul sitting at the table as well.
In other bills, there are provisions that require that when making a decision under an act, the minister must consider “any adverse effects that the decision may have on the rights of the Indigenous peoples of Canada”. Can you tell me if you are aware of any such provision in Bill ? If not, what might be your recommendation with regard to this bill, and what might be any amendments that need to be made to this bill in order to satisfy some of the concerns that you raised in your testimony?
I don't know the exact number, but I'm aware that there are quite a few. I don't have that number, but I know that there are almost 700 decommissioned ships, abandoned ships, nationally.
On the other side of it, with regard to the ships that are decommissioned, the usual practice has been, I guess, to go to the point of the cheapest labour, and that is to go overseas, which I feel is not right at all, even for those people who are doing the work, because of the protections that are required.
A lot of those ships have asbestos, and from what I've seen, there's absolutely no protection on that side. It may cost more here, but.... Here we are in Cape Breton. We've seen a lot of these decommissioned ships here in the harbour, waiting for the contractor to take them overseas. We're asked to look after those through our security measures, and that's about it. There's really no discussion, no consultation, which is very.... I mean, it's the law. That's required, even if we think, even if we feel, that it's affecting us, and we certainly feel that.
It's not just a check-off in a box that you consulted us, that you just spoke to us. It has to be meaningful consultation, and there has to be meaningful accommodation to that.
I know that's a long answer to your question about how many abandoned ships, but I needed to put that in.
Okay. Thank you very much.
I will go on to Islands Trust Council chair Peter Luckham, whom I worked with as vice-chair for six years, and now he's in the chair seat, the position I used to occupy.
We did a lot of work on this issue, and honestly, Islands Trust Council was one of the first local governments that brought the Union of British Columbia Municipalities and the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities repeated resolutions every year, which we are still pushing for. The government has said it is going to do some of these things, but they are not embedded in the legislation. They're on the website and part of its programming, but a lot of us have such an appetite for action on this that we would be more comforted if it were embedded in legislation.
Some of those pieces would be fixing the vessel registry, creating a fee to help cover the cost of vessel disposal, and especially addressing the backlog of what we hear from Transport Canada are thousands of abandoned vessels across the country.
I'm seeing you nod. Those are the elements of a lot of those local government resolutions.
Can you talk in more detail about the imperative of dealing with the backlog and also some of the concerns that I think you heard the Sunshine Coast Regional District Board talk about on the previous panel? Although there is a program in the interim to work with local governments to remove some of the existing backlog of abandoned vessels, we heard from the minister last week that there have only been seven applications across the whole country so far.
What are the barriers to local governments participating in that program? Did Islands Trust Council make any applications for removal?
I think the backlog is a very serious concern. You can't go to any harbour, really, on any of the major islands, cast your eye about, and not see an abandoned or derelict vessel washed up on the beaches. They are in the playgrounds for our children. They are where we swim. They affect the nurseries and the eelgrass. These vessels must be removed. They just continue to deteriorate. The longer we leave them there, the most costly they will become.
With respect to the take-up on the removal program, I think there are some significant problems with the assumption of ownership, for instance, and with the application for funding.
There are too many questions about how the process will unfold for those parties to take on some significant responsibilities. I think 200 vessels were identified in the Vancouver Island and coastal British Columbia area. There is no doubt that there are vessels out there, but there are definitely concerns with taking on that responsibility. I am concerned about asking volunteer organizations to take on vessels that are essentially hazardous materials. Honestly, I don't think we should be encouraging private citizens to take on the cleanup of toxic chemicals, hydrocarbons, lead, asbestos, and all sorts of things that are contained in those vessels.
I think there is a necessity to have a point agency responsible for identifying these vessels and assessing the risks associated with them. Certainly if it's just a small boat with no toxins, we could probably do something there, but I am worried about the toxicity of the vessels that are there.
I'm also worried, quite honestly, about regional districts accepting these vessels into their landfill sites. We don't accept drywall and gypsum into our landfill sites, for obvious reasons. If these vessels are hazardous waste sites, which I would suggest they are, I think there needs to be serious consideration given to how we're going to handle these things, and it needs to be done professionally and efficiently.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I want to go a bit deeper into the process of what we've learned from past consultations, particularly with the indigenous community and with the himself, who has participated in many discussions on this, and then come forward with some of the contents of the bill.
Correct me if I'm wrong. I'm looking at now ensuring that we do not have orphaned vessels, that vessels have a hull number attached to them so that we can locate them and therefore attribute a vessel to someone. That's point number one.
Point number two is to then—and this is a point that the gentleman on video conference made—enter into a tendering process, because not every situation is the same. It's not a cookie-cutter process. There are not only different methods, but also different circumstances attached to those methods that we can embark on, and therefore we can mitigate the cost as well as mitigate the impact to the environment in the surrounding area.
Lastly, there's the future with respect to ensuring that the processes are abided by. It's built into legislation, and therefore we won't find ourselves in the position that we're in now, with 600-plus vessels that are abandoned.
Would that be accurate, in the opinions of the delegations that are here today, with some of the comments that you made? Would it be accurate in terms of that process as we move forward?
I open that up for all of you.
Thank you very much, and thank you for allowing me to be a guest here.
I want to comment before I ask Peter Luckham on the consultation with indigenous peoples, because that is so important.
The minister did meet on August 30 and 31 with the Nanwakolas, the Maritime Aboriginal People's Council, and the Mi'kmaq federation. Of course, there's always more we can do, and certainly the oceans protection plan reflects our deep commitment to working with indigenous peoples with regard to everything to do with marine safety and protection.
Mr. Luckham, I thought what you said about the opportunity to help those that ask for help was interesting. Could expand on that a little bit more? No doubt this is going to be a community partnership endeavour.
Thank you for that opportunity.
Certainly we need some kind of a vessel turn-in program and some opportunities for education and stewardship. Many of these people don't enter into this abandonment process on purpose. They take on a vessel expecting to realize some dream; it turns out to be a much bigger situation than they had intended, and they end up with no alternatives. The regulation was not clear when they got involved in the vessel, and it would help them make a decision early on if the information were there about what their responsibilities are and that the vessel should be registered and licensed.
I would like just for a moment to compare. If you don't properly transfer an automobile into another person's name by filling out the proper paperwork, it's a $10,000 fine in British Columbia. That same mechanism doesn't exist with a vessel. We can help them help themselves by helping them not get caught in the situation in the first place, and then provide them with some alternatives for proper disposal of the vessel once they have it.
As well, of course, preventing an undocumented sale by an original owner who actually knows how much it's going to cost to fix that boat means that this person is not going to have an opportunity to pass it on to an innocent victim. I think there are many innocent victims. I know of a barge that was pushed up onto the Penelakut beach that was sold to somebody for a dollar. It sounded like a great idea until it started to sink in Ladysmith Harbour.
We can help them by not allowing them to get caught in this horrible situation that they don't see a way out of.
I would like to respond regarding consultation.
First of all, indigenous people are going to support any kind of cleanup of the environment. That's without question. With respect to consultation, the minister met with a number of aboriginal groups, such as the Aboriginal Peoples Council, for example. It is not a legislatively recognized authority for first nations. It is a service organization, much like a friendship centre. It serves a critical role, but the only ones that have the authority to speak on behalf of first nations are first nations chiefs, through the Constitution Act and the Indian Act.
For example, in the lead-up to the environmental review that is going on right now with respect to the SIA, the NEB, the Fisheries Act, and the Navigation Protection Act, there is a two-year engagement session that has been going on, which has actually been really great, but now that they are drafting the bills, that will trigger an official duty to consult.
Everything they've done beforehand is great, because we're learning from each other and learning about ways to make things better, but now that they have drafted the bills, now it is the duty to consult, and organizations like mine will then take a step back and allow the treaty tables to consult.
This vessel cost the federal government over $1 million to remove, several years ago, so I guess the big question is who's going to pay for all of the cleanup, as Ms. Malcolmson has pointed out, of these thousands of abandoned and wrecked vessels, many of them recreational vessels. The big question I'm thinking about as we review this bill, Madam Chair, is who's going to pay for all this.
We heard from Washington State that it requires all vessels under 200 feet in length to have insurance to cover the cost of removal. Barring that, it defaults to the marina in question. Denmark, I understand, has recently introduced legislation requiring vessels under 20 gross tonnes to have adequate insurance to cover the removal of a wrecked or abandoned vessel. However, here in Canada this bill doesn't seem to cover vessels under 300 tonnes.
The government has announced an abandoned boats program, but that only has $6.85 million allocated to it over five years, or roughly $1.3 million a year, which would barely cover the cost of removing just one ship like the Viki Lyne II.
I guess I'm looking for your comments or suggestions on how we can cover the cost of cleaning up these abandoned and wrecked vessels along our coasts. Perhaps it's amending paragraph 24(1)(b) that relates only to Canadian vessels. In other words, keep paragraph 24(1)(a), which says that any foreign vessel of 300 tonnes or more that is entering or leaving a Canadian port must have insurance, but set a different threshold for Canadian vessels that's much lower than that, so that we can deal with people who have abandoned or wrecked their vessels here on Canadian shores. I'm looking for comment on that threshold.
If I might respond, I thank you for asking some very good questions that I might ask of the same legislation.
With respect, I would like to ask who is going to clean up the environmental damage and restore the destroyed habitat, and at what cost. We see that the herring roe fishery is diminished, and salmon are diminished, and orca, and the list goes on. It's a balance. There are significant environmental costs that are not being factored in.
With a proper program in place, I would like to suggest that the owners of these vessels will be the ones to pay, if there's a system in place that can identity who that owner is.
They're great questions. I don't have all the answers. Colleagues?