BC’s Parks Under Threat of “Research”

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Many of us moved to British Columbia from all over Canada – and the world – because of the bastion of untamed wilderness. Still more of us were born in BC, and consider it the best and only home worth knowing. It’s tough to talk about the politics of Canada without taking a stand on one side of the fence. Mountain Life strives to make sure that, no matter which direction you lean, you, the reader are accepted just by virtue of the fact that you thrive in our Great Outdoors.

That’s why this post is such a toss-up: it is impossible to talk about this subject without inadvertently pointing the blame at Ottawa’s pocket lining. Back in February, a rarely-talked-about piece of legislature, Bill 4, was passed, coming into effect on the 24th of March. Also known as the Parks Amendment Act, Bill 4, like all legal documents, is a dry read (that’s why we as a society invented lawyers).  The reason it’s hitting the news is that Bill 4 allows industrial incursions into provincial parklands. This includes  energy extraction, construction of pipelines and industry-led research. “Research” is the major sticking point, as its ambiguity allows all manner of – let’s face it – destruction of these until-now protected areas of our country.

In a press release distributed shortly after the announcement, Gwen Barlee from the Wilderness Committee said  “This Bill undermines the very definition of what a ‘park’ is… given that our protected areas will now be open to industrial activity.”

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While the bill states that permits for ‘research’ will only be considered after a “thorough review of protected area values,” it is difficult to see, given the last couple of years and decisions made by our representatives (including the notorious Northern Gateway Pipeline) that the final say will be made more based on the financial merits of Big Oil and their brothers rather than the conservation of the innate beauty of our  province.  This is especially apparent, given that this may be the first you’ve heard of this. It’s not surprising: no public consultation was offered or even considered.

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This isn’t a matter of Conservatives, Liberals, or any political denomination. It’s not whether you were born in BC, or even in Canada for that matter. It’s a case of love and pride for one’s home.  The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society has set up an easy to use site to contact Mary Polak, the BC Minister of Environment, to request the retraction of the Parks Amendment Act.

“This legislation opens the door to pipelines, oil and gas drilling and industrial activities that are counter to the values that created our parks system,” said Darryl Walker from the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union. “If Bill 4 passes, 2014 will be the year that B.C. Parks changed forever,” he said.

For more information, check out the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union page, and their campaign on Facebook.