Bill C-64: Senate protects ocean war graves in new law to regulate wrecks
Legislation to regulate wrecks in Canadian waters exempts those with heritage value, including ocean war graves, thanks to the Senate.
Bill C-64 was crafted to promote the protection of the public, infrastructure and the environment — including coastlines and shorelines —by holding vessel owners accountable and ensuring Canadians are not responsible for clean-up costs. Among other measures, the legislation authorizes the Minister of Transport or the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to order the removal of a dilapidated vessel left on any federal property and authorizes the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to hold owners liable for vessels or wrecks that pose hazards. It further prohibits vessel abandonment (unless due to a maritime emergency or authorized by the federal or provincial government), and requires owners of vessels of 300 gross tonnage and more to maintain wreck removal insurance or other financial security.
The Senate’s Role
During the course of its study, the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications proposed an amendment to the legislation to ensure heritage wrecks, including ocean war graves, are protected. “These are the sites of military vessels that were wrecked in Canadian waters and which sometimes contain the final resting places of Canadian soldiers and sailors who died while serving our country,” said Independent Senator Larry Campbell, who sponsored the legislation in the Senate, during his third reading speech on Dec. 10, 2018. “In recent years, it has become easier for drivers to access such sites due to improvements in technology, so the need to take action has become more urgent.” Sen. Campbell also thanked Conservative Senator Fabian Manning for proposing the amendment.
The House of Commons agreed with the Senate amendment. MP Nick Whalen said he was grateful for the work of the Senate committee in proposing the amendment. “This was an important addition, and one that will add to the core reason for the bill’s existence, namely, to protect and preserve Canada’s marine ecosystems and make our waterways safer,” he said during a speech to the House of Commons on Feb. 1, 2019. The bill received Royal Assent on February 28, 2019.