Trudeau's pledge to ban oil tanker traffic on BC's North Coast

Maude Barlow
Photo: Barlow speaks at a rally in Victoria against the Northern Gateway pipeline (October 2012) and signs the Solidarity Accord to the Fraser River Declaration (December 2013).

On September 10, the Canadian Press reported, "The federal Liberals are promising a moratorium on oil tanker traffic along the northern coast of British Columbia. ...The Liberal pledge would put Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound off limits to tanker traffic as part of the party’s push to protect ecologically sensitive areas."

If the Liberals follow through on this promise it would effectively kill the Northern Gateway pipeline. That project proposes filling about 225 export tankers a year with bitumen at a terminal in Kitimat at the head of the Douglas Channel. Those tankers would then move through the North Coast which includes Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound.

Some of this goes back to December 2010 when the House of Commons adopted a motion from NDP MP Nathan Cullen calling for a ban on crude oil tanker traffic on the North Coast. After this non-binding resolution was adopted by the House of Commons in a 143-138 vote, Liberal MP Joyce Murray introduced a similar bill.

But this issue also goes back to the 1970s and Justin Trudeau's father.

In June 2010, the Canwest News Service reported, "[An] offshore drilling moratorium in B.C. dates back to 1972, when the government of Pierre Trudeau banned tanker traffic through the coastal waters north of Vancouver Island. The moratorium was later extended to include all offshore oil and gas activity, putting a freeze on offshore permits held by various oil companies. In 2004, a panel appointed by the Chretien government completed a public review of the moratoriums. The panel concluded that public opposition was too strong to consider lifting the bans."

The Harper government, not surprisingly, did not see itself bound by this.

The news report added, "The Harper government has quietly affirmed that it isn't legally bound to maintain a moratorium on oil drilling off the coast of British Columbia. The government has also determined that the ban doesn't apply to oil-tanker traffic, despite the widely held view that such vessels are prohibited from plying the waters along B.C.'s northern coast."

The Council of Canadians celebrates the defeat of the Harper government and encourages the Trudeau government to fulfill its promise to ban oil tankers on the North Coast.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has stated, "Stopping the Northern Gateway pipeline is one of the most important fights we have right now. If we allow Northern Gateway to go ahead, it will mean a massive expansion of the tar sands, more harm to the land, water and climate, and yet another delay for the clean energy future we need. First Nations are opposed to Northern Gateway. They are the rightful stewards of their lands and should be the ones to decide if and how they are developed. The Council of Canadians will stand with them in the coming battles to stop this pipeline."

Barlow has spoken at numerous public forums in British Columbia in opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline and has signed a Solidarity Accord to the Save the Fraser Declaration which opposes the project. Council of Canadians activists have also participated in many rallies against the pipeline, protested at an Enbridge shareholders meeting, and raised funds for a First Nations legal challenge against the pipeline along with numerous other actions.

Further reading
Harper government says there is no moratorium on oil drilling, tanker traffic off BC coast (June 2010 blog)