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Senate to debate environmental bills as sitting resumes

A dozen bills, including several with environmental goals, are set to be debated in the Senate.

Better protecting Canada’s environment, including oceans, coastlines and wildlife, is at the heart of several Government bills to be debated in the Senate when the sitting resumes on Tuesday.

Bill C-48 proposes to formalize a long-standing crude oil tanker moratorium on the north coast of British Columbia, preserving a rich ecosystem that includes orcas, grizzly bears, Pacific salmon and kelp forests.

The Oil Tanker Moratorium Act would keep shipments of crude and persistent oils up to 130 kilometres from the shoreline in the remote northern region where response time to a potential spill is limited, explained Senate sponsor Mobina Jaffer during her second reading speech in June. Still, smaller loads will still be allowed to service communities that rely on the marine shipment of goods.

“By finding the right balance between environmental protection and community and industry resupply, the Government will ensure that shipping companies continue to employ workers from these communities. These jobs are important to individuals working on these ships and the economies of their communities and beyond,” she said. The bill remains at second reading.

Bill C-55 proposes to empower the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to designate a marine protected area and to prohibit certain activities there for up to five years until a decision is made on whether or not to make the designation permanent. Currently, it can take 10 years to establish a protected area, and the bill would ensure preservation is not delayed while important research and consultation is underway.

Senator Patricia Bovey, sponsor of the bill in the Senate, explained during her second reading speech in May that the legislation would increase protected areas to 10 per cent of Canada’s oceans and shorelines.

“Our oceans are absolutely essential to sustain our economic, cultural and spiritual lives,” she said. “Undertaking our stewardship responsibility is paramount, both for the present and for the future, and for all Canadians, especially Canada’s coastal communities, whose economic livelihood is dependent on maintaining healthy, sustainable ecosystems.” The legislation remains at second reading.

Bill C-57, sponsored by Senator Diane Griffin in the Senate, amends the Federal Sustainable Development Act to broaden its scope, to make the process for developing the federal sustainable development strategy more transparent and to increase accountability to Parliament. That bill also remains at second reading.

Bill C-69, which aims to improve Canada’s environmental assessment processes, is set to advance to second reading when the Senate sitting resumes. The objective of the legislation is to improve the rules for the assessment of major projects to protect the environment and waterways, to rebuild public trust in how decisions about resource projects are made, and to provide certainty and predictable timelines to industry and investors. It also ensures that Indigenous knowledge be formally regarded and integrated into review processes.

Bill C-68 aims to fulfill the Government’s commitment to better protect Canada’s freshwater and marine fisheries, helping to ensure their long-term economic and environmental sustainability. Changes include the restoration of protections removed for fish and fish habitats in 2012, as well as the introduction of new ecological safeguards. C-68 also seeks to better recognize the rights of Indigenous peoples with respect to fisheries.

Find out more about the Government bills currently before the Senate here.

Senate to debate environmental bills as sitting resumes

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