Concerns Shared at Anchorages Roundtable Hosted by NDP MPs Sheila Malcolmson and Alistair MacGregor

NANAIMO — On Friday in Nanaimo, local First Nations, community advocacy groups, and local government representatives gathered for an engaging roundtable discussion on the impacts of bulk commercial anchorages in the Salish Sea.

“Anchorage concerns are well-founded, given the noise and light impacts and pollution risks felt by people on Protection Island, Yellowpoint, Ladysmith, and Saltair in my riding, and Cowichan Bay and Plumper Sound in the ridings to our south,” said Malcolmson. “Large commercial freighters at anchor endlessly in sensitive areas risk the environment and cause noise and light pollution. Near-misses when three freighters dragged anchor in Plumper Sound reveal the oil spill risk anchorages pose.”

Malcolmson and MacGregor have raised coastal communities’ concerns with the Trudeau government repeatedly, including tabling dozens of petitions about the impacts of bulk commercial anchorages. Concerns range from environmental and economic impacts to the lack of consultation with First Nations.

“If the Liberal government is serious about reconciliation and living up to their commitments under the UNDRIP, they will work with all First Nations whose traditional territories cover the 33 designated anchorages off the South Coast of Vancouver Island,” MacGregor added. “We’ve heard First Nations were not consulted nor did they give their consent when the anchorages were first established. Anchorages used for extended periods of time threaten the traditional harvesting grounds and environment of First Nations pursuing future economic benefits in the area.”

Tim Kulchyski, a biologist for Cowichan Tribes, said he was happy to have so many like-minded people in one room to discuss solutions. “The reason there are so many concerned people in the room is because this issue has been left not just for a couple of decades, but the issue hasn’t been dealt with for a multitude of decades and now’s the time.” Kulchyski added, “these are issues we take very seriously, and there’s a reason we have concerns that span decades. They have never been addressed. The cumulative impacts are profound.”

“There’s a real sense of solidarity around the message, and a unified voice that this is an undesirable practice – the vessels anchoring in the Salish Sea,” stated Peter Luckham, Thetis Island Trustee and Island Trust Chair. “We want to see some solutions, and Trust Council wants to see ultimately an elimination of the Salish Sea being used as a parking lot.”

Chris Straw from Gabriolans Against Freighter Anchorages, one of nine community advocacy groups at Friday’s meeting, said “It’s so powerful to be in a room with so many people who share the same concerns. The lack of consultation is just so shameful, and the lack of respect for the process in terms of the activity that’s going on in First Nations territory. Independently, many of us have been coming up with the same conclusions. We’re told time and time again that shipping is important to trade. We get that. But nobody can see the economic benefit of having ships sitting idle at anchor when they should be moving freight. So I think the common understanding of that is a really important motivator going forward.”

“Because the all-party Transport Committee of Parliament is doing a study right now on trade corridors, we’re encouraging the NGOs represented around the table today to get their solutions on the record with the Transport Committee. We’ll be working with our colleagues back in Ottawa to implement some of the innovative solutions that citizen groups are proposing,” Malcolmson added.