Five Reasons to Say “Happy Canada Day!” this Year


By Bruce Passmore

Every day we are inundated with disturbing news, from racially motivated violence, to oil spills, to social inequality, to the impacts of climate change.  It can be difficult to hold a brave face and to continue to push forward; to have hope.

Fortunately, the last few months have given us some very important environmental victories that can help us dig deep and find the strength to carry on. Here are five that I will be celebrating this Canada Day:

1. Fishing closures established around the Southern Strait of Georgia Glass Sponge Reefs
On June 4th, 2015, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced permanent fishing closures on and around the Southern Strait of Georgia glass sponge reefs. They created a 150 metre buffer zone around the reef to protect this fragile and very important ecosystem from the impacts of sedimentation from bottom fishing. This is a huge precedent-setting victory for the BC marine environment.

2. The signing of the Marine Planning Process (MaPP) by the BC Government and 18 coastal First Nations
It might be hard to get excited about planning processes, but the signing of the MaPP was a monumental first step to responsible management and protection of the ocean between Vancouver Island and the Alaska border. It took almost 10 years of tireless effort, collecting a comprehensive assembly of data from multiple sectors, but in the end, 18 coastal Nations and the BC Government signed this historic agreement on April 27, 2015. It places a priority on ecosystem protection and food security. It also puts pressure on the Federal Government to come back to the table and implement the plans.

3. The Lax Kw'alaams nation said “NO!” to the LNG plan in their territory
Based on the risk to their environment, culture, and livelihoods, the Lax Kw’alaams band turned down the offer of $1 billion dollars over 40 years for their consent for the project. The band placed the long-term health of the food web above the short term influx of money and huge profits for an LNG corporation. As numerous Nations have repeatedly pointed out, many of the proposed LNG and pipeline projects along the coast may bring in a small number of jobs for up to 10 years, but they will destroy the abundant food and culture of coastal communities for countless generations. It’s not worth it.

4. Jumbo Glacier Resort lost its environmental certificate
On June 19, the BC Government announced that the Jumbo Glacier Resort’s environmental certificate had expired. This means that Glacier Resorts Ltd. no longer has the ability to continue altering the landscape for the purposes of a ski resort. If the company wishes to continue, they would have to start from scratch for the entire process. With the recent Williams Decision (Tsilhqot’in), obtaining permission might be more difficult due to the opposition to the project by the Ktunaxa Nation whose traditional territory the project is on.

5. The announcement of the Hecate Strait Glass Sponge Reefs as the first Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Canada in 5 years
On June 27, 2015, the Federal Government announced the creation of a new Marine Protected Area (MPA) around the globally unique glass sponge reefs in the Hecate Strait between Prince Rupert and the Haida Gwaii. The last MPA was designated in 2010. These reefs are incredibly productive and important habitat for octopuses and sharks, and are a nursery for many commercially important species including rockfish, prawns, and crabs.

Most of these wins are steps – there is still more work to be done. MPAs need stricter regulations; the Southern Strait of Georgia Sponge Reefs need to be part of a larger National Marine Conservation Area; First Nations need to be permitted to lead the discussions on activities in their territories; the Jumbo Glacier Resort needs to be put to rest for good. But I will take these wins and celebrate for now. Besides, the people I admire most in this world are those who have persevered through adversity, driven by their personal values to create a healthy, equitable society and a sustainable planet for future generations.  I’ve learned from them that we have two choices: to give up or to defend what we care about. What will you do?

Bruce Passmore
Executive Director, CPAWS-BC