On Dec. 7, 2010, the House of Commons passed a motion calling for a ban on crude oil tankers off British Columbia’s North Coast. Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen put the motion forward, which passed 143-138. While the Conservative minority government opposed the motion, the NDP, Liberals and Bloc Quebecois supported it.

A ban on crude oil tankers, if passed into legislation, would present an almost insurmountable barrier to the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline currently under review. The proposed 1,170 km twin pipeline would connect the Alberta tar sands to a marine terminal in Kitimat, British Columbia, introducing an estimated 225 oil tankers per year to the waters of the North Coast.

The motion adopted by Parliament demands the government bring forward legislation to ban tanker traffic off the British Columbia Coast. Cullen argued that the majority of British Columbians oppose oil tanker traffic along the North Coast. Coastal First Nations, an alliance of First Nations on British Columbia’s North and Central Coast as well as Haida Gwaii, declared a tanker ban within their traditional territories earlier this year. In September, the Union of B.C. Municipalities also passed a resolution in support of a tanker ban.

Last week, a delegation of representatives from First Nations, the fishing and tourism industries, environmental organizations, and scientists went to Parliament Hill to encourage MPs to support a legislated oil tanker ban on the North Coast. The majority of Parliament appears to have heeded the wisdom of their advice, urging the government to protect the livelihoods, cultures and environment of the Pacific North Coast.

“A legislated tanker ban is about protecting jobs, protecting our diverse marine and coastal environments, and recognizes First Nations Rights and Title,” said Josh Paterson of West Coast Environmental Law Association in a released statement. “We have a world-class coast that needs strong, legal protection from the threat of oil spills — whether from Enbridge or any other project. We’re going to keep working toward a legislated ban.”

However, that goal is not yet won. While Cullen hoped the government would legislate a tanker ban, he remains suspicious that they will not. But Cullen suggested, “if they choose to ignore British Columbians, First Nations and now a motion of the House of Commons, they’ll be judged in the court of public opinion. There are many thousands of British Columbians that are willing to get engaged on this.”

Tyler Shandro during a June 25 news briefing. Image: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr

Tyler McCreary

Tyler McCreary is an Indigenous solidarity activist based in northern British Columbia. He is also currently working towards his PhD in geography at York University.