The Big Heist: Ottawa Hands Offshore Regulation to Oil Industry | Ecology Action Centre

The Big Heist: Ottawa Hands Offshore Regulation to Oil Industry

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, January 24th, 2018

K’JIPUKTUK (HALIFAX) -- An alliance of twenty Atlantic Canadian and Quebec environmental, indigenous, and fishery organizations gathered today to express alarm that offshore petroleum boards would be given more power over oceans off Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence under the Liberal government’s plan to modify the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.  

The Alliance regards the Nova Scotia and Newfoundland offshore regulatory boards as ‘captured’ unelected bodies, unrepresentative of the public interest, with a mandate to facilitate and promote drilling.

“It’s a clear conflict of interest,” says John Davis, Director of the Clean Ocean Action Committee, a coalition of fish plant operators and fishermen representing over 9,000 jobs in South-Western Nova Scotia.

“To assume that the offshore boards created to promote offshore oil and gas development, can somehow fairly assess environmental impacts is the height of folly. It will put renewable resources that have supported my communities for 3 centuries and our Mi’Kmaq communities for 1,000s of years at a massive new level of unnecessary risk,” he says.

“The Trudeau government promised to make environmental assessment credible again,” says Gretchen Fitzgerald, National Program Director of the Sierra Club Canada Foundation. “Sadly, if the proposed legislation is passed, they will be doing the opposite.  “Currently the federal government’s Expert Panel on Environmental Assessment Reform recommends a single independent agency, such as the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, to conduct all federal EAs. We support that recommendation”, she says.

“What makes this even more ridiculous is that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans manages the Gulf’s five provincial fisheries from a Gulf-wide point of view,” says Greg Egilsson, Chair of the Gulf NS Herring Federation. “Fish and oil don’t recognize provincial boundaries. It is irresponsible and reckless for the government to consider that regulatory bodies appointed within one province, (i.e. C-NLOPB and C-NSOPB), should have responsibility for environmental assessments which must reflect the potential impact on provinces beyond their own jurisdiction”, he says.

“More and more scientific evidence is coming to light that seismic airgun surveys that precede oil exploration and are to detect oil reservoirs below the sea floor have a pervasive, widespread impact on the entire ecosystem, from plankton, through fish, lobsters, crab and scallops, right up to whales” says Dr. Linda Weilgart, who is an international expert on the impacts of seismic on marine mammals. “These Boards have shown themselves to be environmentally irresponsible in permitting seismic surveys in endangered North Atlantic right whale, Northern bottlenose whale and blue whale habitat. It is clear these boards are woefully inadequate and ill-equipped to protect our marine life,” she says.

 “Mi’kmaq leaders have been calling for a moratorium on oil drilling in the Gulf of St Lawrence for several years now,” says Dorene Bernard, Mi’kmaq Elder and Water Protector. “Why is the federal government not upholding Indigenous rights? Our waters are sacred. We need to ensure we uphold our responsibilities to protect and keep them healthy.  Water is more precious than oil,” she says. “Water is Life”.


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For further information or interviews: 

Gretchen Fitzgerald
National Program Director, Sierra Club Canada Foundation 
902-444-7096 /

John Davis, Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia
902-499-4421 /

Greg Egilsson
Chair, Gulf NS Herring Federation
c. 902.396.7068

Linda Weilgart PH. D.
c. 902.403.9377 /

Dorene Bernard
Mi’kmaq Elder, Water Protector
c. 902.758.5152 /

Troy Jerome
SEN'TI Environmental & Indigenous Services 
President & CEO 
c. (506) 759-2000

Backgrounder: ECELAW Overview of Offshore Boards and Environmental Assessment