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New law to regulate wrecks improved with Senate amendment to protect ocean graves

House of Commons accepted an amendment by the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications.

Legislation to regulate abandoned or hazardous vessels and wrecks in Canadian waters is set to be law with a Senate amendment that exempts wrecks with heritage value, including ocean war graves.

Bill C-64 promotes the protection of the public, the environment — including coastlines and shorelines — and infrastructure, by holding vessel owners accountable, 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;
  • Prohibits vessel abandonment unless authorized by the federal or provincial government, or due to a maritime emergency;
  • Authorizes the Minister of Transport to hold owners liable for their abandoned or dilapidated vessels;
  • Authorizes the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to hold owners liable for their vessels or wrecks that pose hazards; and
  • Requires owners of vessels of 300 gross tonnage and more to maintain wreck removal insurance or other financial security.

During the course of its study, the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications amended the legislation to ensure heritage wrecks, including 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.

MP Nick Whalen said he was grateful for the work of the Senate committee in proposing the amendment during a speech to the House of Commons on Feb. 1, 2019.

“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.

The House of Commons agreed with the Senate amendment. The bill is awaiting Royal Assent.

New law to regulate wrecks improved with Senate amendment to protect ocean graves