A decision has been made on our federal court challenge over the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s permitting of the proposed US thermal coal port at Fraser Surrey Docks. It is disappointing to have to tell you that the court has rejected our challenge of this project approval. You can find a link to the court decision here.
I am, however, proud of the work our lawyers at Ecojustice have endured over the last 4 years. They, along with the lawyers from the cities of New Westminster and Surrey have done an outstanding job and we all knew the uphill battle that was before us. Currently, our lawyers are exploring the options open to us, including the possibility of an appeal. The court has also awarded costs against us and we are in the process of determining the extent of those costs.
I’m also proud of the strong leadership from our friends at Voters Taking Action on Climate Change who were wonderful to work with. I’m also grateful for Christine Dujmovich’s courage in adding her name as a co-litigant and for her determination to try to create change. I must also add that we had the support of the municipalities of New Westminster and Surrey, both of which intervened in our case and share our concerns about the impacts that this coal port would have on our communities, the local environment and the climate. A huge thank you needs to go out to them for standing with us.
But most of all, I am grateful for the support, both financial and moral, that many of you have shown over the years. I have gotten to know many of you personally and it has been a pleasure. Without your support, this whole journey would not have been possible.
So where do we go from here? Change takes time and it is clear that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done and our group’s concerns about the permitting of this coal export project, and about port authority decision making still remain. This whole experience has simply reiterated the urgent need for legislative reform to hold decision makers like our port authorities to account.
Ottawa needs to re-examine the combined roles our ports play as both environmental decision makers and landlords of our public port lands. Ottawa must look at changes to the Canada Marine Act to address this conflict if we are to have confidence that our ports are making decisions in the best interests of the Canadian public.
Further, Ottawa must bring about reforms to port authority governance to better balance the interests of port users, Canada’s trade agenda, and local communities in port decision making on development projects.
Until then, I don’t want us to forget the impact we’ve had since starting this challenge:
- Fraser Surrey Docks has not yet started construction on a coal port on the Fraser River, despite originally planning to get started in 2013. There is no sign that Fraser Surrey Docks is close to starting construction either, as they have not yet applied for key air quality permits required from Metro Vancouver. To our knowledge, Metro remains firmly opposed to the project.
- Over the course of our challenge to this project, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority has begun to repair its project review and environmental assessment processes.
- More generally, the conversation around thermal coal has grown over the last many years to become more mainstream and certainly more important than ever. In 2015 Alberta announced that coal power would be phased out by 2030 (Alberta utilities are on track to meet that goal by 2023), and in November 2017 Canada’s Environment Minister proposed a global phase out of coal power as part of international climate talks. The Minister needs to be encouraged to resolve the contradictions between support for a thermal coal phase out and support for expanded thermal coal exports.
Thank you again for your support over the past several years as we brought this challenge forward. It has been a rewarding journey for me and certainly one of the most amazing experiences of my life, bringing communities together with a common goal. It has shown me that things are worth fighting for, regardless of the court outcome, because having the courage to stand up for what you believe is a win all on its own.