Legislation to Protect Canada's Marine Environments from Polluters Comes Into Force

St. John's, June 25, 2005 - The Honourable Stéphane Dion, Minister of the Environment, today announced Bill C 15, which will allow Canada to more fully protect its marine environments from polluters, will come into force on June 28, 2005. This environmental protection legislation received Royal Assent on May 19, 2005.

Making the announcement in St. John's, with Tom Osborne, the Minister of Environment and Conservation for Newfoundland and Labrador, Minister Dion said, "With Bill C-15, which effectively strengthens our environmental protection laws, Canada is sending a message to the world that we value our marine resources and will protect them by all necessary means."

"Bill C-15 is very significant for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and I am extremely pleased it will finally be proclaimed into law. I am also very pleased with the cooperation that we received from the federal government on this important issue," said Minister Osborne. "The illegal and deliberate dumping of bilge oil off our coastlines is an issue that our government takes very seriously. Bill C-15 will indeed address this environmental crime that has been occurring in our oceans and help ensure better protection of our valuable marine environment and wildlife."

Amendments to the Migratory Birds Convention Act (1994) and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (1999) following the passage of Bill C-15 in May, more effectively addresses the enforcement of these Acts in cases of marine pollution.

"The legislation provides clarity for enforcement officials, as well as owners and operators of vessels in waters under Canadian jurisdiction, including the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone," said Minister Dion. "This includes almost a quarter million kilometers of coastal waters including both Atlantic and Pacific coasts as well as the Arctic."

Maximum fines allowed under the Migratory Bird Convention Act are now up to $1 million. In addition, vessels of more than 5,000 tonnes face a minimum fine of $100,000 for a summary conviction and $500,000 for an indictable offence. These minimum fines and other refinements to the legislation help bring Canada's penalties in line with penalties in the United States.

All penalties now received under the Migratory Birds Convention Act will be directed to the Environmental Damages Fund. This Fund provides a source of financial support for non-government groups to develop projects to help restore the damage from pollution incidents.

These amendments hold shipping companies and their ships' officers accountable for any illegal dumping of bilge oil in Canadian waters. Once a specific ship is proven beyond doubt to be the source of oil pollution, the ship, its officers and its owners to must demonstrate that they took all reasonable care to avoid commission of the offence.

Environment Canada's research shows that an estimated 300,000 sea birds are killed each year off the coast of Atlantic Canada alone, as a result of oiling incidents. Research is currently under way on numbers of birds being killed and injured elsewhere.

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.

Support for marine pollution surveillance efforts is also provided by the Canadian Space Agency through the Integrated Satellite Tracking of Polluters (ISTOP) program which uses Canada's Radarsat remote sensing satellite.

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

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