Here is some news to share from the Wilderness Committee:
Safeguarding Manitoba’s bears and belugas
Manitobans don’t always think of polar bears and beluga whales when they think of their province. But for visitors from around the world, Churchill is the pre-eminent place for tourists to watch belugas and bears, and take in the tundra, subarctic conditions.
Ecological tourism in Churchill still faces a crude threat, though, as Omnitrax – the company that owns the rail line to Churchill as well as the seaport – is planning to ship rail cars of crude oil up sketchy tracks through polar bear habitat, and then by ship through beluga whale habitat. The Manitoba government has stated they don’t support this plan, but the licensing for railways carrying oil and fuels in Canada is in federal jurisdiction.
Our provincial government is working on two big initiatives for the north, designed to preserve the habitat of belugas and polar bears. The idea of a provincial Polar Bear Park, encompassing the whole Hudson Bay coastal region from Churchill right through to Ontario, is being studied. Additionally, the province is crafting a provincial marine protection strategy for belugas in the Churchill River, other rivers and Hudson Bay.
Hard work will be required to ensure these initiatives succeed.
First Nations in the north still rely on these lands and waters for a healthy living, and the protection initiatives overlap many traditional territories. Responsible, meaningful consultation and accommodation will need to be completed with the First Nations. Manitoba also needs new legislation that will protect water habitat in the province, as there is none right now.
Done right, the new protection initiatives for beluga and polar bear habitat could put a stop to the shaky oil-by-rail plan. Banning the movement of trains carrying crude oil through these protected lands and waters will keep control of these lands and waters within Manitoba. Our federal government is increasingly willing to put the environment at risk for resource extraction. But Manitobans and northern communities will want our government to keep crude oil off the train line – not spilling across the tundra.
Please take the time to write a personal “Thank you” to the Premier, letting him know he is on the right track by working to keep crude oil off the northern rails and away from belugas and polar bears. His email address is: email@example.com
If you have not yet done so, please use our letter-writing tool to voice your opinion to the federal government. Let them know you want to ban the shipping of crude oil by rail through Churchill and through Hudson Bay. If you’ve already sent a letter, you can help by sharing this on social media with your family and friends, and by encouraging everyone you know to chime in.
Eric Reder | Manitoba Campaign Director