Orcas, VAFFC and the Garden City Lands

“The federal Court of Appeal has upheld a precedent-setting ruling that confirmed the federal government is legally bound to protect killer whale habitat.” So says an Ecojustice press release.

The effect is a greater obligation on the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to protect B.C.’s killer whales (orcas), including the families near the Fraser Estuary. Ironically, the court decision will support the ministry’s existing efforts to get the YVR airlines—Vancouver Airport Fuel Faclities Corporation (VAFFC)—to heed the ministry’s cautions about the threat that the proposed Panamax tankers and their noise pose.

The ministry’s Ecosystem Habitat Branch and even Port Metro Vancouver had warned that the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales use the mouth of the South Arm estuary to hunt their prey. And you can see that if you look at Area A in the ministry’s map below. But the VAFFC response had seemed to brush it off.

Note: The habitat of the Southern Resident Killer Whales, a clan that is sometimes called the Orcas of the Salish Sea, is shown in lavender blue.

In Saturday’s Vancouver Sun, Jeffery Young of the David Suzuki Foundation went further with the implications of the federal court decision. His op-ed column, “A victory for killer whales is a victory for all,” uses the orcas as a representative example. He puts it like this:

The most important function of a government, and the laws that define it, is to protect the basic needs of its citizens. If there’s one thing that Canadians should take note of here, it’s not just that we need to protect killer whales; it’s that we need clear, prescriptive laws to protect these most basic needs, including the clean air, water, soil and functional ecosystems we all depend on.

If you’ve been following the Garden City Lands issue perceptively, you may realize that on a key level it is a struggle to win respect for those same basic needs with another representative example. Yes, there has been a struggle to conserve a large green space for appropriate uses for the people of Richmond’s crowding city centre, and there are other important values, but at heart the lands are a lot like the community of southern resident killer whales not far to the west.

Read other articles on this blog on this topic. Also visit the VAPOR website.

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