Since 1974, West Coast Environmental Law Association (WCELA) has provided legal services to members of the public who are concerned about threats to the environment. WCELA and the West Coast Environmental Law Research Foundation provide legal representation, promote law reform, provide legal education, conduct legal research and maintain a library of environmental legal materials.
We have a long history in the development of federal, provincial and municipal laws and policies regarding protection of the environment. We have participated in amendments to the Fisheries Act, recent inquiries on oil spills in marine waters, and major federal laws such as CEPA (Canadian Environmental Protection Act) and CEAA (Canadian Environmental Assessment Act). We want to ensure that the oceans, as an integral part of the natural ecosystems on which we all depend, are protected by the best laws and policies possible.
We applaud the government for introducing the Oceans Act. The following comments on potential changes to the Act are designed to give more substance to the vision shown by Fisheries and Oceans Minister Tobin, in A Vision for Ocean Management, released on June 14, 1995. In that statement, Minister Tobin stressed the need for conservation and long-term sustainable resource use. He stated we had come to a turning point, and that we "must turn away from partial, ad hoc and short term expedient measures which have resulted in resource over exploitation and environmental degradation. We must translate our responsibility and good intentions into a policy which will result in sustainable use of resources and environmental protection."
The Oceans Act needs some adjustments if it is to match this vision.