I call to order the meeting of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities of this 42nd Parliament. Pursuant to the order of reference of Tuesday, December 5, 2017, we are resuming our consideration of Bill , an act respecting wrecks, abandoned, dilapidated or hazardous vessels and salvage operations.
Welcome to you all.
Witnesses, I apologize for starting late, but that's Ottawa and Parliament. We're never quite sure.
Recognizing that it's also Valentine's Day this evening and that people possibly have some other plans, we'll try to put this into two 45-minute sessions. We'll have five minutes for each of our witnesses and then we'll have the remaining time in that block for a round of questions. Then we can go on to the next one, and hopefully we can be completed by 6 p.m.
In the first panel of witnesses, from the Town of Bridgewater, we have David Mitchell, the mayor. Welcome.
Good afternoon, and thank you for allowing me the privilege to speak to you today about the impact that derelict vessels have had, and continue to have, on our community. While I am speaking for the Town of Bridgewater, our situation, sadly, is one that is repeated many times over across our great country. For you to fully understand where we're at today, you do need to know how we got to where we are.
In October 1998, Transport Canada divested itself of the port of Bridgewater and transferred ownership of the wharf to the Artificial Reef Society. I want to make sure that I am clear on the following point. The Town of Bridgewater does not own this wharf, and it is now owned by the individual who was the head of the Artificial Reef Society. I say this to drive home the point that had that not happened, I would not be speaking to you on this topic today and you would have saved a few dollars by not having to bring me here.
During the first two years of port ownership, the Artificial Reef Society brought the HMCS Fraser, a Canadian Navy frigate, up the LaHave River with the intention of sinking her for an artificial reef. When that didn't go anywhere, the plan was to turn the Fraser into a floating hotel and museum, and in 1999 it was designated a national historic site.
In 2009, after it had rotted at the wharf for a decade, the navy repossessed the Fraser and took her to be scrapped. While this should have been a joyous occasion for the people in my community, sadly it was not. That's because sitting behind the Fraser since the year 2000 was the Cormorant. Unfortunately what should be another celebrated piece of Canadian history, its being an integral part of the expedition to recover the ship's bell from the Edmund Fitzgerald, the Cormorant has sat abandoned and rotting in our town.
In 2015 the Cormorant began to list so severely and sink that the Coast Guard had to be called in to slowly right the ship at a cost to Canadian taxpayers of over $1 million. This was a year after the Cape Rouge, one of the two trawlers behind the Cormorant, also sank, both spilling various lubricants and fuels into this tidal watercourse.
The Cormorant still sits at the port of Bridgewater today, rusting away in the LaHave River. These derelicts have had a very large, very real, and very negative impact on my town. They depress property values along the river resulting in reduced tax revenue for my town, which has had a direct impact on the services that I'm able to offer my citizens. As the Cormorant sits at the wharf, there is a risk every day that this vessel will tip over again and, along with the other derelicts, leak and leach the various contaminants still inside them into the river—a river that the federal and provincial governments, along with our neighbouring municipality, have committed $15 million to clean up.
The Town of Bridgewater has worked very hard to get to where we are today as the fastest growing town of our size in the province of Nova Scotia. With the help of the federal government, we've undertaken a massive downtown revitalization plan, which beyond the 100-year-old underground infrastructure that was replaced, saw the addition of two parks on our waterfront over the last number of years. Across from the port of Bridgewater is a very large recreational green space that holds many family events throughout the year, yet always looming in the background is the Cormorant.
Despite having to endure over two decades of these derelict vessels at this wharf—and I'm sure some cursing by those who had wished the port of Bridgewater was never put into private hands—I have hope in being here today that one day this ship will be gone and legislation will be put in place to ensure that this will hopefully never happen again.
I've seen the action taken by this government in the Town of Shelburne to remove the Farley Mowat, and the support from all parties in the House to rid our wharves and waterways of these dangerous eyesores. This is not a Liberal, Conservative, NDP, or Green Party issue. This is a Canadian issue, and I'm proud to be able to tell my residents is being taken very seriously by all members of Parliament.
Irrespective of the level of government we represent, we were elected to improve our community, economy, environment, health, and the lives of the people we represent. These ships, whether they are in Bridgewater or elsewhere in Canada, impact all these things in a very negative way.
For decades our town has looked at options to deal with these vessels, but I cannot do this alone. As communities across Canada we cannot do this alone. However, being here today I can say with confidence that we are no longer alone in this. I can look around this room and I know that we are being heard and that the days of idle words are behind us and legislation is coming to protect our water, which is in reality our most valuable and vital resource. This is not just encouraging, but a demonstration of co-operation that we need when too often all we read or hear about is division and negativity when it comes to government, regardless of which level it is.
I'd like to thank my MP for being a champion of this topic, and I'd like to thank each of you for your willingness to work together to clean our waterways from coast to coast to coast. I look forward to seeing the result of your efforts.
Thank you. My name is Karen Mattatall, mayor of the Town of Shelburne. The CAO, Dylan Heide, and I will sort of be tag-teaming this.
We certainly agree with Mayor Mitchell and many of his comments. However, Shelburne is a coastal community; we have about 1,743 residents; we're sitting on one of the best natural harbours in the world; and our county has about 14,500 people. Most of our economic activity—pretty much all—is marine-based. That includes fishery, marine industry, and tourism. Though the Shelburne harbour is federally regulated, we actually are unique in that we operate the marine terminal. It is a commercially operated facility in Shelburne harbour, heavily used by Clearwater, local aquaculture operators, and other independent fishermen. As with Bridgewater, this facility was divested to the town a good 20 years ago, which as Bridgewater has said, certainly has not been very favourable to the town.
Go ahead, Dylan.
Hi. We're playing tag team with the phone. As Mayor Mattatall said, I am Dylan Heide, the chief administrator officer for the town.
I just want to go a little bit into the background of derelict vessels in our harbour. As the mayor noted, it's one of the best natural harbours. Both Karen and I have been with the town for the past six years, and in that time we've had about half a dozen derelict vessels arrive in our harbour. Generally they have gone to the Shelburne Marine Terminal, which is a divested facility similar to the port in Bridgewater, as noted by Mayor Mitchell. It continues to operate as a commercial facility, heavily used by the local fishery.
We've had vessels of all sorts abandoned. Some have had residual value. Some have not. We have, as the operator of the terminal, had to take action on these vessels. Obviously, the one that is most known is the MV Farley Mowat, which got a considerable amount of media attention. The six vessels prior to that essentially were covered only in the local media and were of concern to residents. Yet those vessels still on occasion caused environmental contamination in our harbour, were significant eyesores, interfered with fisheries operations, and generally impacted the viability of our local port to the extent that over the years it did lose significant business.
That said, we have always taken aggressive legal action and tested the limits of the courts to deal with derelict vessels, which has led to a clear realization on our part as to the necessity of the legislation that the federal government has recently been pursuing. When vessels have had a residual value, we've been more able to dispose of those vessels and recoup some costs, something that has really only been available to us because the vessels have been abandoned at an operating commercial facility with a legal berthage agreement and tariff, not necessarily something available to most communities.
I'll move on to the MV Farley Mowat briefly because it is such a well-known story. The Farley Mowat, as Mayor Mitchell mentioned, like a lot of derelicts, has a storied history. Obviously, it had been seized by the federal government back in 2008 and let go for salvage. In 2014, it made its way into the Shelburne harbour under cover of darkness and without permission. I think this evidence is an important concern around derelict vessels, in that the vessel was derelict when it arrived. It had been removed from the port of Lunenburg halfway through salvage, with the top decks fully removed, and posed an incredible hazard from the moment it arrived. The town took action against the owner of that vessel for several years without success. In the summer of 2015, it sank at the terminal and the Coast Guard refloated the vessel, but it continued to remain at the Shelburne marine terminal until the summer of 2017.
All throughout this period the town was engaged in legal action with the vessel owner, who was known to the town. This evidences the importance of understanding that a derelict vessel may have an owner but the owner may be irresponsible and unable to affect removal or unwilling to affect removal. I should acknowledge that over this period we had significant support from our federal member of Parliament and also from neighbouring communities, including Bridgewater.
In 2017, the vessel was eventually removed and disposed of by the Coast Guard. The town residents and, obviously, the council are very grateful for the federal government's involvement with that vessel; but at the end of the day the three-year fight to get to that point clearly demonstrates the need for legislation.
I'll just hand the phone back over to Karen to make a concluding comment.
The lessons learned and the value of this legislation are, first, that a vessel can be derelict and cause extensive hardship even when the owner is known. Second, even if they have value, derelict vessels can be an enormous burden on our communities and marine facilities. Third, there are significant limitations to court actions. Court action is slow, allowing for significant problems like sinking vessels, as we experienced with the Farley Mowat releasing pollutants, and it is very costly, with little chance of recouping the cost directly from the owner.
Clearly, this legislation on derelict vessels is needed. The legislation must endeavour to place a burden on the owner, and ensure that the communities and facility operators cannot be victimized by vessel owners, and will need to include assistance for the costs incurred.
Thank you very much for hearing from us.
Thank you for the invitation to appear before you.
The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, like other Canadian port authorities, is established by the Government of Canada pursuant to the Canada Marine Act, and is accountable to the federal .
Our mandate is to facilitate Canada's trade objectives, ensuring that goods are moved safely, while protecting the environment and considering local communities.
The Port of Vancouver is Canada's largest port by a wide margin. Our jurisdiction, for those of you familiar with B.C.'s Lower Mainland, includes the Burrard Inlet and the surrounding land in downtown Vancouver, and much of the Fraser River, for a total of 16,000 hectares of water, more than 1,000 hectares of land, and approximately 350 kilometres of shoreline. The port borders 60 municipalities, and intersects the asserted and established traditional territories and treaty lands of several Coast Salish First Nations.
The nature of the area is such that the issue of wrecks, abandoned, and hazardous recreational vessels is a significant one for the port authority. Within our jurisdiction, English Bay, Burrard Inlet, and the Fraser River are very popular for recreational and small commercial boating, and derelict vessels are a common occurrence. The problem has been particularly acute on the Fraser River, so much so that several years ago we completed a risk assessment of all derelict sites, including vessels, to determine the likelihood and severity of their potential impact on public safety, the environment and navigation.
We then started work on the eastside by trying to contact owners and, where possible, working with them to ensure safe removal. The port authority committed approximately $2 million over five years to the initiative, and to date we have cleaned up 144 of 151 identified sites.
The main challenge we have with recreational derelict boats has been the inability to trace ownership in the current pleasure craft licensing system. As you are aware, the system has required only recreational vessels that are powered by an engine of 10 hp. to be licensed. Larger recreational sailboats that become derelict are often not in the licensing system because many have engines that are just under the 10 hp. threshold. Further, it has been difficult to identify owners of vessels even if the vessel is in the licensing system because there is no real requirement to transfer the record of that ownership in the event that the vessel is sold.
Lastly, mandatory insurance has not been required for recreational craft, as is the case for automobiles. The absence of insurance often means that there are no funds available from the owner to remove derelict recreational vessels.
Therefore, the port authority welcomes appropriate regulation that would address the challenge of cleaning up derelict vessels and improve the port authority's ability to keep our waterways clean and safe.
In summary, I am pleased to say that the port authority fully supports this bill, and in particular the provisions to prohibit vessel abandonment, strengthen owner responsibility and liability for hazardous vessels and wrecks, and empower government to take proactive action on hazardous vessels before they become more costly to Canadians. These changes are much needed and will go a long way towards addressing the environmental and safety issues problem prevalent vessels pose.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I'd like to thank all of you for joining us today and for being flexible, given the circumstances we face today.
I do want to thank you, Mr. Mitchell, for your comments regarding the fact that this is a non-partisan issue and has support from all members of all parties in this House.
I do want to keep my questions very brief because I do want to hear from all of you, so perhaps you'll answer my questions in the order you presented just so, for those who are on the telephone, you will know when you may want to provide your response.
Quite simply, do you have any concerns about Bill ? If so, I'm imagining that you might have some amendments, and I would like to know what they might be.
My community doesn't really have any concerns, because we see this as a huge step forward from what we have in place now. I have spoken to my member of Parliament to express our support. We've seen action already, so I sense that this legislation will only see more action in terms of removing the derelict vessels.
My only comment is that because our municipality does not own the wharf, it would be nice to see something whereby the wharf owner could be penalized for having allowed those boats to arrive in the first place. As you've seen from the slide show that's been playing, from the HMCS Fraser to the Cape Rouge to the Cormorant, these boats just keep coming over and over again. A huge concern for me and my community is that if the Cormorant were removed tomorrow, there is nothing to stop the port owner from bringing another ship up on Friday.
However, we are so pleased that legislation is being brought forward are happy right now.
It's Dylan here. We discussed it and agreed that I'd respond to this one.
We are also very pleased about the legislation coming forward. We have the opposite take from Mayor Mitchell's on the operator of the facility, just on account of its being a public facility in our case. Certainly, if the owner of a facility is inviting a vessel and knowingly causing a situation, I could understand that there may be some liability associated. Our concern is around the ability of a facility operator to refuse a derelict vessel.
Generally, all of our derelict vessels either arrive without permission or arrive with permission and then are subsequently abandoned. In those cases, we've taken every action that we conceivably could. In communication with other small-port operators—and we're a member of the Independent Marine Ports Association of Atlantic Canada—we hear that this seems to be a common issue. While I'm sure there are facilities that have recklessly encouraged the situations that have taken place, such as in Bridgewater, one of our big concerns is that a lot of the time a community such as ours may be left holding the bag, the costs associated with a derelict vessel, despite having done everything possible to remove it.
We would like the legislation to ensure that costs incurred by our communities can be compensated for, in particular acknowledging that the vessel owners may not have the means or be in a position to deal with the costs they have created for our communities.
Thank you to the witnesses for being here today.
I'm going to start with you, Mayor Mitchell, because I know the situation in Bridgewater quite well.
Bridgewater has spent a lot of time and effort in the last little while developing its waterfront. We have Mariners' Landing, Pijinuiskaq Park, Shipyards Landing, and the outdoor classroom. What impact does having those vessels in the town have on all the work that the community has gotten behind? You spent a great deal of money fixing up our downtown core, but then we have those sitting in the background.
Maybe you could talk about that for a second.
Thanks very much to our witnesses for being here. It's hard to follow on from my colleague Ms. , because we come from very similar communities with a lot of similar concerns.
I want to just build on the issue of the small municipalities. I represent an area where it's common for a municipality to have a few thousand people in a coastal community. They don't have a lot of financial capacity to deal with this. The bill includes a lot of measures aimed at prevention of new vessels arriving and being abandoned. Separate from that, there are some federal government programs, like the abandoned boats program, designed to deal with existing vessels.
I'm wondering if you could perhaps, particularly from Bridgewater and Shelburne, discuss how the federal programs could best be shaped to help municipalities that don't have the financial capacity to deal with abandoned vessels that exist within their communities today.
Perhaps, Mr. Mitchell, you can start off.
I understand where Shelburne was coming from in their answer, in response to my answer about punishing the wharf owner. I was specifically talking about how in this case, our case, it's a privately owned wharf. I wouldn't want Shelburne to have to bear that.
There are things in the bill that do deal with this, such as not allowing a vessel to remain in the same place for 60 days. That would help.
I think there should be monetary provisions put in place to punish the wharf owner. If I go back to the original ship that arrived, the Fraser, it had a whole bunch of plans. The wharf owner was going to first sink it. Then they were going to make it a hotel, and then a museum. If I start a business, I have to have a business plan, or the bank's not going to give me any money. If you're going to bring a giant Canadian naval frigate up the river and park it, I would hope that you have a better business plan than, “hey, I'd like to sink it in the Atlantic ocean, where I'm not allowed to sink ships to make artificial reefs.”
We found that Washington state's abandoned vessel legislation does have a limit on agencies' ability to sell agency-owned vessels that are in poor condition, but there's nothing in this legislation that limits the disposal of federal assets in that area. There was recently the sale of Canadian Forces' auxiliary vessel the Firebird, for which, again, the contract didn't do that due diligence to make sure that the person purchasing had the means to carry it on.
Mayor Mitchell, we had a good conversation this summer on exactly this case. I imagine Shelburne is in the same situation. If you were to see, in this next version of the legislation, something that would put protections like that in place, would any of the witnesses be glad to see such responsibility being taken on by the federal government?
I'm sorry to jump in there, Mayor Mitchell.
Just quickly, as I've said, we've had a number of derelicts. We've had the misfortune of having to deal directly with the owners—if they can be found—and certainly a profile does develop. Without intentionally maligning anyone, the majority of derelict vessel owners have ended up in prison fairly quickly after their vessels arrived in the harbour, including one who was imprisoned overseas.
Generally, they are people who do not have the means to effect removal. A part of the pattern of disposal can seem to be to offload the costs associated with the vessel if the price of steel has fallen or they otherwise see themselves as not being able to afford to dispose of it. Abandoning it in the harbour has become a common means of disposal for people at that point.
I'm calling the meeting back to order of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. We continue our study on Bill .
Our witnesses for this panel are from the Assembly of First Nations, Terry Teegee, chief of the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations, by teleconference; from the Chamber of Shipping, we have Bonnie Gee, vice-president, by video conference from Vancouver, British Columbia; and from the Ladysmith Maritime Society, we have Rod Smith, the executive director. Welcome to all of you.
We will turn it over to Chief Teegee for five minutes, if you would like to start.
We're still waiting, so how about we go to Bonnie Gee, since you're ready, for five minutes, please.
Good afternoon, Madam Chair and members of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you to provide the Chamber of Shipping's perspective on Bill , an act that will take measured steps to address concerns with wrecks, abandoned and hazardous vessels.
The Chamber of Shipping represents the interests of international cargo and passenger vessels calling in the ports in Canada and, to a lesser extent the domestic ferry tug and barge operators. The west coast serves as Canada's busiest gateway for Canadian trade and tourism, and the members of the Chamber of Shipping support efforts towards a healthy and vibrant marine ecosystem.
Overall, we are supportive of Bill and would like to acknowledge Transport Canada for its approach and work on this important matter. While the bill as proposed will not resolve all the associated challenges in the short term, it does establish a strong legislative framework to build upon. I would like to acknowledge the efforts of many members of Parliament, including Ms. Sheila Malcolmson and Ms. Bernadette Jordan, in advancing the concerns of local communities.
We agree with the many witnesses who have already appeared before this committee that Bill is a positive step forward in demanding greater accountability from vessel owners, establishing the appropriate authorities and processes to deal with hazardous vessels, and outlining consequences for non-compliance. Given the expanse of Canada's coastline, the challenge will be ensuring that the legislation is fair, effective, and enforceable.
Bill falls in line with the various commitments made by the Government of Canada under the oceans protection plan to keep Canadian waters and coasts safe and clean for today's use while protecting them for future generations.
Bill seeks to implement the international convention that provides for uniform international rules and procedures to ensure the prompt and effective removal of wrecks and fair compensation for the costs. The Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, adopted in 2017 by the International Maritime Organization, entered into force on April 14, 2015, one year after ten nations signed the convention without reservation. We welcome Canada's accession to the Nairobi Convention, as it provides communities with added protection against vessels of concern and the potential costs associated with wreck removal in a manner that adheres to international regimes.
Global operators seek certainty in the regulatory environment and general consistency of applications supports a higher level of awareness and compliance. Canada continues to be a strong contributor to the development of good policy at the International Maritime Organization. We applaud Transport Canada's commitment to the important work of this United Nations agency.
International shipping requires a regulatory framework that is consistent, effective and implemented globally. As a founding member, Canada celebrates its 70th year of membership in the IMO this year. To date, 41 countries have ratified the convention, representing 75% of the world's tonnage. These countries include significant flag states and coastal nations such as China, Singapore, Panama, Liberia and Germany. Almost all vessels over 300 tonnes engaged in international trade will already have the appropriate insurance in place as required under article 10 of the Nairobi Convention.
A wreck as defined in the convention includes any object that is lost at sea from a ship. Under Bill the definition is expanded to include the following:
||equipment, stores, cargo or any other thing that is or was on board a vessel and that is sunk, partially sunk, adrift, stranded or grounded, including on the shore.
Earlier this week, , the member of Parliament for Courtenay—Alberni, again raised concerns and expressed his frustration with government inaction following an incident involving 35 containers that were lost at sea just eight nautical miles off the west coast in November 2016. Several containers ended up on the shorelines along the coast. Unfortunately, in this case the carrier responsible was in receivership, leaving communities to deal with the mess, because the provisions offered in Bill with respect to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans' authority to direct, dismantle, or dispose of a vessel or wreck were non-existent. This will be addressed once Bill C-64 passes through Parliament and receives royal assent.
Ratification of this convention through Bill will also provide communities and many indigenous peoples with the mechanism to realize a broader assessment on the impact of ship-related debris in a timely manner and an opportunity to fully recover any costs associated to the assessment of hazardous debris removal operation.
All of the above are important and positive attributes of Bill , which, as mentioned at the outset of my comments, the Chamber of Shipping supports.
Thank you very much for your time and attention and for inviting the Chamber of Shipping to appear today.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I would like to thank the committee for the opportunity to appear before you to comment on Bill and the issue of abandoned vessels. Let me start by complimenting Minister and his team at Transport Canada for drafting Bill C-64. I also think I should recognize MPs Bernadette Jordan and Sheila Malcolmson for their tireless work on this issue of abandoned vessels.
Ladysmith on Vancouver Island is a community of about 8,600 people. Tourism is one of our key economic drivers in the community. In 2010, visionary leaders in the community set the Ladysmith Maritime Society on a path to attract large-scale international marine tourism. In 2012, with $1.5 million of federal support, half a million dollars from Island Coastal Economic Trust, and strong support from the local Stz'uminus First Nations, we opened our welcome centre and began work on a visitor dock extension.
Prior to these enhancements, about 2,000 marine visitors a year tied up at our marina. This past year, we welcomed 6,300 marine visitors, 60% of whom were from the United States. These visitors inject over $1.5 million per year into the local economy and become our best ambassadors. Recently, the Ladysmith Community Marina was recognized as one of the top 10 marinas out of 400 or so in the Canadian and U.S. Pacific northwest and had been branded by our visitors as the friendliest marina on the west coast, a testament to the efforts of our 200-plus volunteers.
Sadly, all of this is at risk. A simple Google search of Ladysmith harbour results in a disturbing number of headlines about derelict and wrecked vessels, derelict Viki Lyne II, “Boat goes up in flames in Ladysmith harbour”, and about a boat sinking in the harbour and leaking oil. We're now hearing comments from our boating visitors like, “Great marina. I love the food and the people, but we won't be back. The noise and the smells from those boats next door are just too much.”
The 50 or so abandoned, dilapidated, and wrecked vessels adjacent to our marina are a serious threat to our growing tourism industry and an environmental, health and safety, and economic risk to the people of the harbour, including Stz'uminus First Nation, who rely on a 150,000-pound annual oyster licence in the area, as well as other local shellfish producers and processors.
There are some important new tools contained in Bill . Clearly designating the Coast Guard as the lead agency, as I heard Minister say on February 5, is a big step. Hopefully, this will put an end to the jurisdictional complexity that communities have had to deal with. It should not have taken from June 2012 to October 2016 to remove a vessel that had already been identified in a marine survey commissioned by the Coast Guard as being in imminent danger of sinking and spilling 33,000 litres of oil into the waters of Ladysmith harbour, as was the case of the Viki Lyne II. I have the greatest respect for the Coast Guard, and I'm sure they welcome this change as well.
I do, however, have some concerns about Bill , or perhaps more correctly, what's missing from it for us to effectively address the reality of what is happening on the B.C. coast. I have two examples. First, the recently introduced abandoned boats program falls short in its application. The cost-sharing formula with local communities is unfair, and, as recognized by Minister on February 5 before this committee, the funding for the program is inadequate. There's a huge gap between the cap of the abandoned boats program at $50,000 and the reality of dealing with the most prevalent vessels of concern on the coast, ex-fishing vessels and tugs, which made up over 70% of the problem vessels dealt with, using the ship-source oil pollution fund, between 2005 and 2015.
Second, on February 5, I heard Minister answer a question about live-aboards by saying it was an issue to be dealt with at the community and provincial level. Unfortunately, his response and the inability of Bill to clearly address the issue of squatters living on dilapidated vessels creates a large grey area for those of us in coastal communities and ignores the life-cycle reality of a vessel, resulting in Bill not being as comprehensive as I think it was intended to be.
Abandoned dilapidated vessels with no apparent ownership commonly serve as free temporary accommodation for squatters, who often take little interest in sewage disposal, stewardship of hazardous fluids, or vessel upkeep. Without the opportunity to identify a vessel as dilapidated and initiate a repair or removal regime, even if there is someone temporarily living on the vessel, there can only be one outcome: the eventual sinking or burning of that vessel, and the release of pollutants into the harbour, as was recently the case with the 85-tonne Anapaya in Ladysmith harbour.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I want to acknowledge that right now I'm in Vancouver on Coast Salish territory of the Musqueam Coast Salish people, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh.
I am the elected chief of the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations. I have recently been appointed to the national fisheries committee that I co-chair with Regional Chief Roger Augustine. I've been in Vancouver for the last couple of days to talk about all the national fisheries issues, which include many of our coastlines. I've been asked here to speak on this issue with regard to Bill .
Out here on the coast of British Columbia we've experienced many issues with abandoned and other vessels that have become derelict and are spilling deleterious materials, such as oil, diesel, or gas into the ocean along the coast of British Columbia. They are threatening the fish and other sea life that we've been dependent upon for many generations since time immemorial.
The AFN executive committee that I represent has 10 regional chiefs. Each chief is elected by their community and the many other communities they represent in each province. I think this is the first time we've been allowed to present to the standing committee. I'm quite surprised by that, considering that many first nations depend on many of the alliances from coast to coast to coast. Over the 151 years of colonization, we have had many agreements with the provincial and federal governments, whether treaties or other types of agreements, whereby we have been trying to create a relationship that respects both our laws and governance. Right now, when we're talking about these different bills that affect our way of life, we're considered an afterthought. Meanwhile, we're having different agreements that should have mutual respect and recognition of our rights and title and interest and treaty rights.
As an engagement process, I look forward and hope that those who are presenting today and in the future can create a space for our first nations who depend on the coasts of this country, and also have input into how best to deal with derelict vessels along the coasts of this country we call Canada. Especially during the Trudeau Liberal government, we're living in a time of reconciliation. We need to include the many issues that affect many of our people, whether social or resource-based. We need to be involved in those decisions, especially when it comes to governance as it relates to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and its tenets of free, prior, and informed consent.
What really concerns me here is that there have been a number of issues from coast to coast to coast that have affected the resources we depend on. One of the situations out here, for example, was the Nathan E. Stewart that went derelict and sank in the Pacific coastal waters where a lot of its diesel fuel and oil spread along the coast of the Heiltsuk people, the coastal people there.
Technically under Bill , they would be called dilapidated. Some in fact are hanging on by a thread, so to speak.
This is a picture of the Ladysmith Community Marina. Our marina is in the front, and the town is in the back.
Here are couple of pictures just to show you what we have.
There's our welcome centre, which is federally and provincially funded.
Here's the approach from the town onto our marina.
We do a number of free festival events for communities. This was an event with marine biologists and divers bringing up specimens under a special licence, for kids to get a glimpse of what's under the water.
We run a program called Dine on the Dock, for which we bring in guest chefs to let people sample their wares. We are a non-profit society, so any money raised goes to the chefs, for example.
This was from Kids' Day. It's actually called Kids' Pirate Day, but we're looking for a new name for that. About 6,000 come down. It's a wonderful family event. Everything is free, and there's a fishing derby to help the Kinsmen.
Next door is water lot 651. This is an early morning shot I took. You can see the smoke over the water. Those are illegal wood stoves. This was about a week ago. It was a strangely cold day in British Colombia, and the wood stoves were fired up. This shows about 15% of what's there.
In this shot with the post in the middle, just at the bottom, you can see some logs in the water. That's the dividing line between our water lots. To the left is our marina, and to the right are the illegally moored boats. There are three tied together, which is typical of rafting by squatters. One will be a living quarter; one might be a sleeping quarter, and one is a storage area.
That's a 90-foot 100-tonne landing craft, a barge, on which a gentleman brings in metal vessels on a regular basis and cuts them up for salvage. Once he's done with them, they seem to disappear in the night. You can see the three rafted boats off to the left as well.
This is an example. In this particular one, there are nine boats rafted together, with two people living on them. When one sinks, they step to another. On the right-hand side, you can see a turquoise sloping vessel. It's actually just held there by the bow rope. It sank.
Here's another example of a typical live-aboard vessel by a squatter. You can see they're just getting onto their boat.
This is another typical example of three rafted together. This is the Viki Lyne II when it had 33,000 litres of oil onboard it. It took the community four years to get rid of it. The boat to the right of it burned. The one to the left of it sank about two months ago.
Here are three. You can see one in the foreground that burnt earlier in the year. One sank beside it, and there's one that's just burned behind it.
Captain Wootton said they had removed seven or so vessels over 18 months. I've seen six burn. I've had too many calls in the middle of the night. I've had too many people who have been threatened by squatters. You can imagine what this does when you have a marina full of visitors and that is what's going on next door.
So to your question, most are pleasure craft, but almost all are dilapidated. I doubt that there's a vessel or two that could safely navigate the waters.
Thank you, madam Chair.
My next question is for all three of you.
I am going to read to you the purpose of the act:
||The purpose of this Act is to promote the protection of the public, the environment, including coasts lines and shorelines, and of infrastructure by, among other things, regulating wrecks and vessels posing hazards, prohibiting vessel abandonment, and recognizing the responsibility and liability of owners for their vessels.
Mr. Smith, a little while ago, you showed us photos of scenes that were rather depressing.
I am not a regular member of this committee, but I have a question.
You showed us photos that paint a bleak landscape. I am sorry. You deserve more, as do all Canadian waterways.
We want to find solutions to the problem caused by these existing wrecks, but does bill have enough teeth to fulfill its purpose?
Mr. Smith, I would ask you to respond first.
You are telling me that a funding program would be part of the solution.
It would indeed be a step in the right direction, but that alone would not be enough. We also have to take certain measures and make rules in order to actually prevent the problem. We are cleaning up our waterways which are essentially contaminated by wrecks, but we also have to find a way of preventing these situations.
I think we need more than money. We need to take measures, enact legislation and give certain powers to the municipal authorities, provinces or the federal government. I am therefore of the opinion that bill does not go far enough. I am no expert, but I wish to do my duty as a member of Parliament. I would like the people who are directly confronted with the problem to propose some solutions.