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Central Saanich bringing issue of derelict boats to the attention of new federal minister of transportation

Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor says the federal government needs to do more on the issue of derelict and abandoned boats in Brentwood Bay and elsewhere.

“It hasn’t gone away and the problem has gotten worse,” he said in an interview with Black Press Media.

The federal government has taken some steps to deal with the problem. “Where I would give them credit is that there are some things happening behind the scenes, but they need to quickly build on that. We were all able to make progress. I don’t think we would have made as much progress had our local resources not been there.”

Windsor made these comments after council unanimously endorsed a notice of motion by Coun. Gord Newton to send a letter to the new federal Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and Coast Guard Joyce Murray alerting her to the problem. Specifically, the letter will inform the minister about the recent sinking of at least one vessel tracked by the Saanich Inlet Protection Society.

The society had earlier identified and reported six vessels to federal authorities under the Wrecked, Abandoned and Hazardous Vessels Act passed in 2019 designed to deal with dilapidated boats. The group had initially praised the act’s passage but has since questioned the effectiveness of the legislation.

RELATED: Abandoned boat legislation is sinking warns Central Saanich group

Newton’s motion came after a joint meeting of council and the board overseeing Central Saanich Police Service that revealed a complex jurisdictional arrangement concerning enforcement.

“My hope is that all of the agencies involved can act better with some of these boats in the Saanich Inlet and Brentwood Bay specifically to avoid any potential further damage,” he said in calling for a more pro-active approach.

“(First Nations) have a role to play, the federal government, the Coast Guard, local government and the province,” he said. “It’s going to take a combined effort.”

On top of the significant environmental issues, the presence of these boats threatens the food supply of local First Nations, he said, adding that the problem is not confined to Brentwood Bay. “The (Saanich) Inlet is quite a unique place for all of us on the Peninsula and it’s very unique waterway with a very narrow and shallow opening and a deep inside. It only flushes itself once or twice a year.”

While Newton expects that Murray, who assumed her post earlier this fall, will take some time to get up to speed, he would like to see some further action by the end of summer (2022). “I’m relatively realistic about how these agencies work, but I do think more can be done and it would be great to see more action (earlier) than that.”

The passed motion also asks local MP Elizabeth May and local MLA Adam Olsen for support toward reviewing and re-evaluating vessels which may be at risk of sinking or creating environmental damage and assessment done by the Canadian Coast Guard.

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