May 30, 2005

Marine pollution bill becomes law

OTTAWA, ONT-Bill C-15, giving Canada greater powers to protect its marine environments from polluters, has received Royal Assent. The legislation, 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. 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 also increases the maximum fines allowed under the Migratory Bird Convention Act to $1 million. In addition, any vessel of more than 5,000 tonnes found guilty will 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 those of the U.S. Federal Environment Minister St√ąphane Dion welcomed the initiative, noting, "It is unacceptable that hundreds of thousands of seabirds are killed every year as a result of illegal discharges of bilge oil. 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." Environment Canada's research shows that more than 300,000 sea birds are killed each year off the coast of Atlantic Canada alone by the illegal discharge of oily bilge waste from passing ships.

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