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Vancouver Island First Nations leaders want freighter anchorages lifted in the Salish Sea

Multiple chiefs send letter to the new federal Minister of Transportation
Freigher off Kin Beach in Chemainus Feb. 5, 2021. (Photo by Don Bodger)

A number of south Island First Nations have made a joint request aimed at ending the current practice of freighter anchorages in the southern Salish Sea.

Cowichan Tribes Chief William Seymour, Lyackson First Nation Chief Richard Thomas, Penelakut Tribe Chief Joan Brown and Halalt First Nation Chief James Thomas, together with Cowichan-Malahat-Langford MP Alistair MacGregor are calling for immediate consultation, while pointing out several concerns.

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In a joint letter to Canada’s newly appointed Minister of Transportation Omar Alghabra,the MacGregor and First Nations chiefs highlighted the concerns of many Island residents and stakeholders surrounding the anchored freighters – specifically, noise and light concerns, as well as privacy infringement. The First Nations leaders also pointed to the lack of consultations when the anchorages were first established in territorial waters.

The letter also voiced concerns surrounding the risks the ships pose to the already threatened, delicate marine ecosystems around First Nation culture and livelihoods.

Considering the recent fuel spill that forced an emergency closure of shellfish harvesting in Burgoyne Bay, the leaders wrote, “as you are aware, severe storms in the Southern Gulf Islands region are not uncommon. There are regularly numerous freighters located within 400 metres of our shorelines and a freighter dragging or breaking anchor and running adrift in such a storm would be potentially devastating to not only our beaches but the entire southern gulf.”

“There is too much at stake to quietly allow another Minister of Transportation to ignore this issue,” noted MacGregor. “My Private Member’s Bill C-250 seeks to end the use of our coastal waters as an overflow industrial parking lot for the Port of Vancouver and I will continue working with all concerned residents, stakeholders and community leaders to bring further attention to this issue.”

Further information on MacGregor’s bill can be found on his website.

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