Stand.earth demands that Transport Canada act now to stop ship waste dumping

May 13, 2021

A new petition presented today in the House of Commons calls on federal body to protect Canada’s oceans from harmful ship pollution.

Unceded Coast Salish Territories (VANCOUVER, BC) and Anishinabe Algonquin Territory (OTTAWA, ON) — As coastal communities across the country continue to face a growing threat from ships dumping untreated and poorly treated sewage, Canadians are holding their federal government to task. 

In a petition presented at the House of Commons today, thousands of voices urged Transport Canada to “set standards cruise ship sewage and greywater discharges equivalent to or stronger than those in Alaska;” to “designate no-discharge zones to stop pollution in marine protected areas, the entirety of the Salish and Great Bear Seas, and in critical habitat for threatened and endangered species;” and to “require regular independent third-party monitoring while ships are underway to ensure discharge requirements are met.”

Unlike Fisheries and Oceans Canada which has prioritized investing in a blue economy, Transport Canada continues to allow the uninhibited dumping of billions of litres of pollution from vessels.

“As corporations move towards restarting their cruise ship economy, bringing in regulations that match our neighbours is the least that Canada can do to defend marine ecosystems,” said Anna Barford, Canada Shipping Campaigner at Stand.earth. “B.C. has an ignominious reputation as the cruise industry’s toilet bowl. It’s past time that Canada stop letting corporate cruise operators flush the health of our fisheries, our endangered species, and our coastal communities down the proverbial toilet.”

While Puget Sound in Washington State and the coast of California are protected by no-discharge zones, Canada allows sewage to be dumped in our waters that is 18 times more polluted than in Alaska, and sets no limit on contamination contained in greywater.  Sewage and greywater, which is the highly contaminated waste from showers, laundry, and anything that isn’t an industrial process or a toilet, are laden with pathogens and contribute to algal blooms and marine deadzones.

In 2019, over one million cruise ship passengers travelled off British Columbia on their way to Alaska. While Canada’s cruise ship season is on hiatus until February 2022, if Alaska reopens for cruise ships, we may again be dealing with a share of that pollution. And when Canada eventually allows for cruise ships to return to our ports, they will still be allowed to dump polluting, untreated sewage within Ottawa’s ocean jurisdictions, unless Transport Canada acts now.

“People living in coastal communities care deeply about the ocean and want to see a healthy, vibrant ecosystem. Canada must align its cruise ship sewage and greywater discharge regulations with Alaska and Washington to protect our coastal waters and all the species that depend on a healthy, clean ocean,” said NDP MP Gord Johns, who presented the petition to the House of Commons on Thursday. “It’s simply the right thing to do, and I expect the government to meaningfully respond to this petition.”

The federal government will have 45 days to respond to petition demands. Stand.earth is calling on Transport Minister Omar Alghabra to immediately update and strengthen regulations that protect our coastlines by banning poorly treated sewage and greywater dumping in Canadian waters and protecting our most ecologically sensitive regions with no-discharge zones.

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Media contacts: 

Ziona Eyob, Canadian Communications Manager, canmedia@stand.earth, +1 604 757 7279 (Pacific Time)