Speaking Notes for The Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport for a News Conference on Bill C-64, The Wrecked, Abandoned, or Hazardous Vessels Act


Ottawa    October 30, 2017

Good afternoon.

Thank you all for being here.

I am pleased to be here with my colleague Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Coast Guard and our colleague from South Shore – St. Margarets, Bernadette Jordan who played a key leadership role from the very beginning in the legislation our government is introducing today.

A great deal of work has gone into today’s announcement – starting well over a year ago - and so I am particularly pleased with our new legislation.

Almost a year ago, we introduced the Oceans Protection Plan.

With funding of 1.5 billion dollars, the Oceans Protection Plan represents the largest investment ever made in our oceans and waterways.

It’s a comprehensive plan to protect those oceans and waterways – to keep them safe and clean for all Canadians - for now and for future generations.

And we are making steady progress towards this goal.

As part of the Plan, we promised to address the problem of abandoned vessels and wrecks.

And we are delivering on that promise.

Moments ago, we introduced Bill C-64 ­- the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act.

Abandoned, dilapidated and wrecked vessels in our waterways can pose a risk to navigation, a danger to the ecosystem, and a blight on the landscape.

And they certainly are a growing source of frustration for many shoreline communities.

It is estimated that there are hundreds of these problem vessels in Canadian waters. They range from small pleasure craft to large commercial ships.

While most owners dispose of their vessels properly, there are unfortunate exceptions.

Some owners say they can’t afford to remove their unwanted or wrecked vessels. And some are simply unwilling to do so.

Owners who abandon their vessels are not currently subject to any penalties, and some owners see abandonment as a low-cost, low-risk option.

This has to stop.

Right now, the federal government has the power to address some of the negative effects of an abandoned vessel, but only limited authority to deal with the vessel itself.

Bill C-64 will address the gaps in federal law.

The proposed legislation is aimed at protecting the environment and shoreline communities.

It is also intended to reduce the financial burden on taxpayers, who have, in the past, borne many of the costs to remove and dispose of problem vessels.

Bill C-64 will make abandoning a vessel illegal, strengthen vessel owner responsibility and liability, and enhance the Government of Canada’s power to take timely action.

This legislation will also address irresponsible vessel management in a number of ways.

First, it will prohibit vessel abandonment, and owners of vessels over a certain size would be required to carry insurance to cover the costs of wreck removal.

The legislation we are proposing would put the responsibility for dealing with wrecks where it belongs – with the owners.

It would establish a regime in which vessel owners are clearly liable for costs incurred in the course of removing a wreck.

The Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007, established such a regime, and this Bill gives the Nairobi Convention the force of law in Canada.

And, this Bill has teeth.

It would establish an enforcement regime with substantial fines and penalties.

The proposed legislation is only one element of the comprehensive national Strategy on abandoned and wrecked vessels that we announced as part of the Oceans Protection Plan.

Dealing with these vessels, whether that involves removing or disposing of them, or taking steps to limit the damage they cause, can be very expensive.

As part of this Strategy, the Government launched two funding programs this year to support the clean-up and removal of abandoned vessels and wrecks.

These are Transport Canada’s Abandoned Boats Program, and a separate funding initiative for Small Craft Harbours from Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

These two programs are based on the recognition that local communities, ports and harbours, often do not have the resources to cover the costs of removing and disposing of smaller, high-priority abandoned and wrecked boats.

One issue is that owners may not have a clear understanding of their responsibilities.

To address this, the Abandoned Boats Program is providing funding for outreach and awareness activities, to educate the owners of recreational boats and small vessels about responsible boat management, including proper disposal.

The Abandoned Boats Program also supports research into new processes and materials that will help improve boat design and the options for recycling.

Another key element of the Strategy on abandoned and wrecked vessels is improving vessel owner identification.

Obviously, we can’t hold vessel owners to account if we don’t know who they are.

Transport Canada is responsible for registering all commercial vessels and licensing all pleasure craft.

The department is currently working with provinces and territories to improve the registration and licensing systems for boats, to make these systems more effective for law enforcement.

In dealing with the problem of abandoned and wrecked vessels, the federal government will naturally have a leadership role, given its overarching mandate for navigation and shipping.

But others will also be actively involved – provincial, territorial and municipal governments and local coastal communities.

We consulted with Indigenous groups in developing this legislation, and we want to continue working closely with them as well, to ensure we have the benefit of their particular perspective.

We will continue to collaborate with all these partners and stakeholders to implement the national strategy and the proposed legislation effectively.

Let me conclude by saying that our coasts and waterways are the common heritage of all Canadians.

They are crucially important to our environment, our economy, and our way of life.

They are a precious resource and far too valuable to be abused.

Thank you.

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