Legislation to Protect Canada's Marine Environments From Polluters Receives Royal Assent

OTTAWA - May 19, 2005 - The Honourable Stéphane Dion, Minister of the Environment, today welcomed the Royal Assent of Bill C 15, which will allow Canada to forcefully protect its marine environments from polluters.

"It is unacceptable that hundreds of thousands of seabirds are killed every year as a result of illegal discharges of bilge oil," said Minister Dion. "I am extremely pleased that the Government of Canada will now have the enforcement tools needed to better protect the marine waters off Canada's coasts, which are among the world's richest in seabird populations."

Bill C-15, amending the Migratory Birds Convention Act (1994) and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (1999), will provide clarity for enforcement officials in cases of marine pollution, as well as to owners and operators of vessels in waters under Canadian jurisdiction, including the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone

"Amending these essential pieces of environmental legislation will complement the Canada Shipping Act (2001) and allow for more cooperative enforcement actions," said Minister Dion. "We are providing the judicial system with the tools to prosecute offenders and to enable fines that appropriately reflect the damages caused to the environment."

Shipping companies and their ships' officers will be held accountable for any illegal dumping of bilge oil in Canadian waters. The courts will no longer have to prove malice in order to get a conviction. Instead the onus will be on the ships to prove due diligence.

Bill C-15 will increase the size of maximum fines allowed under the Migratory Bird Convention Act to $1 million. In addition, any vessel of more than 5,000 tonnes found guilty would face a minimum fine of $100,000 for a summary conviction and $500,000 for an indictable offence. These minimum fines will help bring Canada's penalties in line with fines in the United States.

Environment Canada's research shows that more than 300,000 sea birds are being killed each year off the coast of Atlantic Canada alone, by the illegal discharge of oily bilge waste from passing ships.

Within the Government of Canada, Environment Canada is responsible for the protection of migratory birds and the marine environment through the Migratory Birds Convention Act, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and Section 36 of the Fisheries Act; Transport Canada is responsible for regulating ship safety and pollution prevention under the Canada Shipping Act and also marine surveillance; and Fisheries and Oceans - Coast Guard is responsible for response to marine pollution. The Federal Department of Justice provides expert legal advice and prosecution services.

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Sébastien Bois
Media Relations
Environment Canada
(819) 953-4016

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