Despite the cold windy air rushing across the Ottawa River, the smiles and excitement of participating in Nature on the Hill couldn’t be dimmed. Every year, Nature Canada gathers conservation practitioners from across the country to engage Members of Parliament in conversations on Canada’s most pressing ecological issues.
This March, 62 organizations came together in Ottawa to discuss the recent United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15) and the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) that resulted from it. The GBF is a precedent-setting agreement that was signed by Canada and 195 other countries. It has ambitious goals such as halting and reversing biodiversity loss by 2030, protecting 30% of lands and waters by 2030, and upholding the sovereignty and knowledge of Indigenous peoples.
To ensure that these goals are achieved, the participants of Nature Canada met with Members of Parliament from across jurisdictions to discuss a federal Action Plan that will implement the GBF within 2023. Further, to support this Action Plan, we advocated for federal accountability legislation that will ensure the federal government is legally obligated to meet these targets by 2030.
While the GBF was our main focus during our conversations, we also had the opportunity to discuss local projects with Members of Parliament. I was fortunate to meet with MPs from British Columbia, (including my MP, Gord Johns, from the Courtenay – Alberni riding!) – which resulted in robust and transparent conversations around several key issues that Raincoast’s Wild Salmon Program has been addressing over the last several years, including habitat restoration to support salmon recovery, fisheries management reform, and progressing ecosystem-based governance models.
Roberts Bank Terminal 2
Our most pressing discussions involved Roberts Bank Terminal 2, the proposed megaport project that would double the size of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s shipping terminal in the heart of the Fraser River Estuary. The federal government’s own Impact Assessment process found it would have a myriad of negative, cumulative impacts on endangered Southern Resident killer whales and threatened Fraser River Chinook salmon. A suite of organizations, scientists, and Port employees have come out against the project, urging Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, Steven Guilbeault, to reject the proposal.
To bring this issue directly to the House of Commons, we created a legally-binding petition that will be read on the house floor by MP Elizabeth May (Saanich – Gulf Islands) in April. Currently, it has over 1,500 signatures and our goal is to secure as possible to make it clear to Ottawa that if they want to uphold the promises Canada made as a signatory of the GBF, Roberts Bank Terminal 2 must be rejected.
Despite the urgent nature of both Roberts Bank Terminal 2 and the Global Biodiversity Framework, my time in Ottawa left me feeling hopeful that we can achieve big goals such as conserving 30% of lands and waters by 2030. To accomplish this, we must capitalize on the momentum and awareness generated by COP15 and tell our elected officials that it’s time to get to work to safeguard Canada’s biodiversity for future generations.
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