Environmentalists, communities, and unions stand together.
Press conference today highlights government’s weak reasoning to sacrifice wildlife and ecosystems in the name of jobs and economy are based on false justifications and incomplete facts.
VANCOUVER/UNCEDED xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (MUSQUEAM), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (SQUAMISH) AND səlilwətaɬ (TSLEIL-WAUTUTH) TERRITORIES — Labour, community, and environmental groups have come together in a united front against the controversial Roberts Bank Terminal 2 (RBT2) expansion project, holding a press conference this morning at Crab Park. With the federal government’s recent approval and the decision now resting with the B.C. government, these groups are determined to halt the project, citing its detrimental impacts on wildlife, the environment and job security.
Today’s press conference was organized and endorsed by 13 organizations including the BC General Employees’ Union, International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Georgia Strait Alliance and the Wilderness Committee.
One of the major concerns raised by workers and unions is the threat of widespread automation in the sector. Representatives with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union say that RBT2 will result in a reduction of family-supporting jobs as existing terminals will be forced to automate to compete with the fully automated RBT2. They emphasizes the need for jobs that do not come at the expense of the ecosystems that sustain us.
Speakers from environmental organizations at the press conference highlighted the project’s impacts on migratory birds, southern resident killer whales (SRKW), and chinook salmon. These species, already facing significant challenges, will be further endangered by the expansion. The project’s environmental consequences exist despite the inclusion of 377 lacklustre mitigation measures and are deemed unacceptable by the opposition groups. Moreover, concerns have been raised about the consultation process.
The federal government’s approval of Roberts Bank Terminal 2 expansion on April 20 has sparked controversy, as the project is projected to increase container shipments by 50 per cent and further degrade the fragile Fraser River Estuary — a biodiversity hotspot crucial for various species’ survival. However, the decision now lies with the B.C. government, which must provide authorization for the project to proceed.
The concerns raised by the opposition groups, both in Canada and the U.S., encompass not only the potential loss of jobs due to automation but also the sacrifice of ecosystems and wildlife for profit maximization. The collective goal is to ensure that projects receiving approval align with the principles of sustainability, justice, and equity, benefiting communities, workers, and the environment. Unfortunately, the review process has been criticized for failing to adequately assess the long-term negative impacts on jobs resulting from automation.
As the B.C. government deliberates on its decision, the united front of labour, community, and environmental groups will continue to amplify each other’s voices and emphasize the need for a thorough evaluation of the project’s impacts. The groups are calling on the provincial government to withhold the certificate for RBT2 under the Environmental Assessment Act. With communities and unions opposing the project and concerns over the consultation process, the fate of Roberts Bank Terminal 2 expansion hangs in the balance.
Charlotte Dawe, Conservation and Policy Campaigner of the Wilderness Committee:
“The government’s reasoning for approving the project is based on false justifications and incomplete facts. The transition to a just, equitable and sustainable economy that allows future generations to survive in tandem with nature must start now. And it starts with canceling Roberts Bank Terminal 2.”
David Bradley, Regional Director of Birds Canada:
“We urge the province not to approve Robert’s Bank Terminal 2. We don’t need another island harming wildlife in the middle of a Key Biodiversity Area”
Lucero González, Biodiversity Campaigner, Georgia Strait Alliance:
“It is time to stop RBT2, prevent thousands of job losses, and the extinction of Southern Resident orcas and wild Pacific salmon.”
Rob Ashton president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union:
“We will not stand idly by while the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and the federal government destroy thousands of family supporting jobs! Just to build someone’s legacy project!”
Stephen Hazell, Consultant at Nature Canada:
“The science is clear that the megaport is bad for migratory birds, whales and salmon. Now we know it is bad for workers too.”
Roger Emsley, Executive Director of Against Port Expansion Community Group:
“Roberts Bank Terminal 2 will push The Fraser Estuary over its environmental tipping point — do not approve it.”
Eva Schulte, Executive Director, Friends of the San Juans:
“Roberts Bank Terminal 2 would add 520 container ship transits each year, including Ultra-Large Container Vessels that carry millions of gallons of propulsion fuel. The project would increase accident and oil spill risk, threatening critically endangered Southern Resident killer whales and all species in the transboundary Salish Sea.”
Signatories demanding answers from governments regarding Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Expansion:
Against Port Expansion
BC General Employees’ Union
Friends of False Creek
False Creek Watershed Society
Friends of the San Juans
Georgia Strait Alliance
International Longshore and Warehouse Union
Save Garden City Wetlands
Watershed Watch Salmon Society
- On April 20, the federal government approved the Port of Vancouver’s expansion project known as Roberts Bank Terminal 2 (RBT2). It involves the construction of a three-berth container terminal, expected to increase container shipments by 50 per cent and extend further into the Fraser River Estuary.
- The development of RBT2 poses significant risks to the Fraser River Estuary, which is recognized as one of Canada’s most important biodiversity hotspots. Entire wildlife species face increased risks, with some facing potential extinction as a result of the project’s ecological impacts.
- The fate of the project now rests with the B.C. government, which needs to authorize its construction within the province. A rejection by the B.C. government would mark the end for RBT2.
Ineffectiveness of B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Report
- The guiding document for the project, B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Report, fails to adequately evaluate the true destructive impacts of the mega project on B.C. and the Salish Sea region. It disregards and ignores ecological effects on endangered southern resident killer whales, wild Pacific salmon, migratory birds, and the vital Fraser River Estuary.
- The report suggests only 17 additional conditions for the project, which do little to limit its environmental damage or address the substantial gaps left by the 370 federal-approved conditions.
- The B.C. government offers no protection measures for harm caused to endangered chinook salmon, barn owls, southern resident killer whales and Dungeness crab.
- The report overlooks the project’s contribution to job losses in the province through unsustainable levels of automation in the sector.
- It fails to acknowledge that B.C. already has sufficient container terminal capacity with existing expansions in the inner harbor and planned expansions at Prince Rupert, which are privately funded and involve minimal environmental degradation at significantly lower costs.
- The report neglects to consider the implications of automating work, including job losses, the risk of fire from the battery storage facility on-site, and the significant energy requirements of automation.
- The construction of RBT2 will result in a reduction of family-supporting jobs as existing terminals will be forced to automate to compete with the fully automated RBT2.
- Robin Sylvestre and the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (VFPA) are seen as responsible for this job loss, with the VFPA prioritizing corporate interests over the working class and cities.
- RBT2 is projected to have negative effects on jobs and the environment in Delta and throughout the province. Environmental groups have highlighted the disastrous impact of the VFPA’s proposed changes on the working class and local wildlife.
- The ILWU Canada Prism report on automated terminals and the economic damage they can cause provides further insights into the potential consequences of RBT2.
- The proposed project is situated in the Fraser River Estuary, the largest key biodiversity area in B.C., categorized as globally important, a Ramsar Site and a vital ecosystem for various marine mammals, shorebirds, salmon and over 100 at-risk species.
- An independent review panel appointed by the federal government in 2020 concluded that RBT2 would undoubtedly cause irreversible and lasting adverse ecological effects, particularly on critically endangered southern resident killer whales, at-risk wild Pacific salmon and migratory and at-risk bird populations.
- Negative effects on endangered and at-risk species include the destruction and modification of highly biodiverse areas in the Fraser River Estuary, reduction of critical habitat for southern resident killer whales, and diminished functional habitat for juvenile salmon.
- The project’s development would impact migratory bird populations by affecting the quality and quantity of essential food sources such as biofilm, thereby disrupting the entire food web.