Environmental groups are seeking a judicial review of Ottawa’s approval of contentious plans by the Port of Vancouver to build a new container terminal.
Last month, the federal government approved the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s proposed $3.5-billion Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project, or RBT2, subject to 370 legally binding conditions. The government said the project will spur economic growth while complying with environmental rules for the creation of an artificial island to be located near Delta, B.C., about 30 kilometres south of Vancouver.
Ecojustice Canada, the country’s largest environmental law charity, said Tuesday that it will be arguing at the Federal Court that Ottawa’s approval of RBT2 is unlawful, running afoul of the Species at Risk Act.
Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, said last month that safeguards will be in place for the protection of endangered southern resident killer whales.
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But Ecojustice said RBT2 would be located in sensitive habitat in the Fraser River estuary.
“If the federal government is to address this biodiversity crisis and help save the iconic whales of the West Coast, and the Chinook salmon they depend on, the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project cannot continue,” the charity said in a news release.
In its 14-page notice of application, Ecojustice named the Minister of Environment and Climate Change as one of three respondents, along with the Attorney-General of Canada and the port authority.
Ecojustice is representing the David Suzuki Foundation, Georgia Strait Alliance, Raincoast Conservation Foundation and Wilderness Committee.
“The terminal will be located along the migration path of ocean-type juvenile Chinook salmon, and within the critical habitat of the southern residents, a population of 73 killer whales listed as endangered,” Ecojustice said in its court application.
Misty MacDuffee, Raincoast’s wild salmon program director, said the Fraser River estuary is an important region to protect.
“It is a fallacy that the federal conditions will prevent Terminal 2 from causing harm to threatened wildlife species that rely on this irreplaceable habitat,” she said in a statement Tuesday.
The port authority, which reports to Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, said that expanding its cargo capacity is crucial to handle imported goods from Asia and exports of Canadian raw materials such as grain.
“Roberts Bank Terminal 2 is essential for Canada – with container trade on a long-term growth trajectory,” the port authority said in a statement.
Before gaining last month’s federal approval, the project underwent a decade-long environmental review process led by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada.
“The government of Canada is confident that its decision-making for the project was appropriate and consistent with its legal obligations,” the IAAC said Tuesday.
One of the port authority’s tenants, GCT Global Container Terminals Inc., runs the existing container-handling site near Delta. GCT wants to expand its three-berth Deltaport terminal and opposes its landlord’s plans to build the artificial island that would be located near GCT’s site.
Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson pointed out last month that the port authority has reached impact benefit agreements with 26 Indigenous groups consenting to RBT2, including the Musqueam Indian Band and Tsawwassen First Nation.
The Lummi Nation in Washington State applied last week for its own judicial review in Canada into RBT2, seeking financial compensation and requesting consultation for employment and other opportunities.