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166,000 People Demand Repeal of BC's Park Amendment Act

Originally Published in the ECOreport 

Left to right: Anna Gerrard (concerned citizen), Mark Worthing (Sierra Club BC), Matt Hammer (concerned citizen) and Caitlyn Vernon (Sierra Club BC campaigns director) on the steps of the BC Legislature in Victoria
Left to right: Anna Gerrard (concerned citizen), Mark Worthing (Sierra Club BC), Matt Hammer (concerned citizen) and Caitlyn Vernon (Sierra Club BC campaigns director) on the steps of the BC Legislature in Victoria

While the US has been embroiled in internal conflict about the XL Keystone, five more pipelines have been proposed in Canada. Two of those may go into British Columbia. Faced by opposition from local communities and First Nations along the route, the provincial government came up with a scheme to lay pipeline through public parks. This required changing a law, which the government tried to do very quietly, but the Wilderness Committee found out. (You can read more about this here and here.) On May 14 a coalition of environmental groups delivered a 166,000 person petition, calling the repeal of the Park Amendment Act, to the BC legislature. This is the press release that was issued that day. I have illustrated with photographs from some of the parks that may be affected. 166,000 People Demand Repeal of BC’s Park Amendment Act.     

Victoria – A massive 166,000 signature petition calling for the repeal of the Park Amendment Act, which allows industrial research in provincial parks, was delivered this morning to the provincial government by leading parks advocates.

Bridal Veil Falls, in British Columbia, Canada. – Photo by The High Fin Sperm Whale, cc by SA 3.0, en wikipedia
Bridal Veil Falls, in British Columbia, Canada. – Photo by The High Fin Sperm Whale, cc by SA 3.0, en wikipedia

The petition is believed to be one of the largest, if not the largest, environmental petition ever submitted to the Province.

“Like the 166,000 signatories to this petition, I am appalled that the B.C. government would sell our parks out to industrial interests such as the oil and gas companies,” said Angus Wong, Vancouver-based campaigner for Sum of Us, who initiated and hosted the petition. “The B.C. government knows this insidious legislation will get the Kinder Morgan and other pipelines built more easily. That’s why we need to fight back.”

The Park Amendment Act, passed on March 24, expressly permits industrial research in parks, which was formerly prohibited. The Act facilitates the removal of park land for a variety of industrial activities, including oil and gas development and logging.

earguard Falls (click on photo)  - Photo by Walter Lim, cc by SA 2.0

“Minister Polak has admitted, on record, that there was no consultation because the government was already issuing permits without any legal basis,” said Peter Wood of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. “Instead of upholding its own law, the government went and changed it to suit industry’s needs.”

More than 30 parks have already been earmarked by the B.C. government for boundary adjustments for industrial purposes. Kinder Morgan, the massive pipelines company, already has a park use permit to undertake “invasive research” in five protected areas in B.C.

“Research in parks should examine the benefits of maintaining these natural assets, not the immediate value of disposing of them,” said Al Martin, director of strategic initiatives at the B.C. Wildlife Federation.

 Grasslands Protected Area near Kamloops (Lac du Bois ) – Gerry tuchodi, cc by SA 2.0
Grasslands Protected Area near Kamloops (Lac du Bois ) – Gerry tuchodi, cc by SA 2.0

The B.C. government rammed through the controversial legislation with just four days of debate, totalling a little over eight hours. More critically, there was no public consultation prior to the legislation’s introduction.

“B.C. parks were created to protect special places; not to be bisected by oil pipelines and logging roads,” said Gwen Barlee, director of policy at Wilderness Committee. “The Park Amendment Act kicks the door open for industrial development in our protected areas and that simply isn’t acceptable to the vast majority of British Columbians.”

“The overwhelming public reaction to this odious legislation shows how deeply people inside and outside B.C. care about our world-renowned parks system,” said Bob Peart, executive director of Sierra Club BC. “British Columbians will not stand idly by while government tears down what has taken more than one hundred years to build. Government needs to listen and protect our parks from industrial development.”

Fishing in Finn Creek – Bruce Guenter, cc by SA 2.0
Fishing in Finn Creek – Bruce Guenter, cc by SA 2.0

The following groups helped organize and promote the petition:

  • B.C. Wildlife Federation,
  • Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society,
  • Forest Ethics,
  • Friends of Strathcona Park,
  • Sierra Club BC,
  • Wilderness Committee,
  • Wildsight
  • the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative.

The petition can be found at http://action.sumofus.org/a/bc-parks-open-oil-gas-mining/.




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