An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (prohibition against abandonment of vessel)

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.


John Weston  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Outside the Order of Precedence (a private member's bill that hasn't yet won the draw that determines which private member's bills can be debated), as of June 17, 2015
(This bill did not become law.)


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 to prohibit the abandonment of a vessel.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

February 12th, 2018 / 3:35 p.m.
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John Weston Lawyer, Pan Pacific Law Corporation

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Since there's some reference to private members' bills in our discussion today, I would be remiss if I did not draw members' attention to Bill S-211, which was passed in 2014, thus creating National Health and Fitness Day, which unleashed, among other things, ski day on the Hill, which will be held this Wednesday. At noon on that day, Nancy Greene Raine will be there, as will the Governor General. You're all invited, no matter what your level of skiing ability is.

When I first came to Parliament as a member in 2008, I thought law-making was about passing bills. I've learned through processes like today's that law-making is so much more than that. Thank you for honouring me with your invitation to testify. For four reasons, it means much, as today's protests reflect important values and positive aspects of our democracy that often get overlooked. I'm going to cover those reasons and then touch on one or two of the refinements that could make Bill C-64 move from good to great.

First, the law you're reviewing is not only the brainchild of legislators or bureaucrats; it's also the results of earnest pleas by people of this great country, people who saw their treasured oceans desecrated by the litter of irresponsible boat owners who could abandon their boats with impunity.

Second, it reflects the influence of individual legislators in our system. With the author of the reform act on your committee—Michael Chong—you may be more mindful than other committees of the importance of the role of individual legislators. Though Bill C-64 is a government bill, it stands on the shoulders of private members' bills the House considered and passed, such as that of Ms. Malcolmson. As detailed more thoroughly in my written submission, which you should have received, two NDP members, including Ms. Malcolmson, engaged the House with their bills, as did I with my Bill C-695.

Third, the bill you consider today reflects an amalgam of cross-party views, not just those of the party in power. At a time when Canadians bemoan hyperpartisanship in Canada and the U.S., you should take pride in promoting the open-mindedness demonstrated here.

Fourth, and most important, the bill promotes responsibility. It's a key value often lost in the cut and thrust of policy-making. We speak often about freedom. I'm no exception. I spoke in these hallowed halls frequently about freedom of speech and freedom of conscience and I joined the legal profession motivated by my interest in constitutional freedoms, but as Auschwitz survivor Viktor Frankl said, freedom without responsibility is dangerous.

The book I published last year touches on stories with which many of you are familiar. Above all, it's a focus on values, including responsibility. The book exhorts political and non-political leaders to be “on”. In fact, On! is the book's title. To be really on, we must cultivate our sense of responsibility.

The core of this bill is an emphasis on accountability. As far as I know, my bill was the first-ever legislative instrument that contemplated the imposition of jail time and fines for people who abandoned vessels. Bill C-64 expands upon that principle and increases the consequences. Thank you, Liberal Party friends, for seizing on such an important part of Conservative philosophy: personal accountability.

By now you know that I support Bill C-64. It's a happy moment when a person associated with one party supports a bill proposed by another. At the risk of tarnishing this happy moment, I have to point out that it took the Liberals 52 pages of text to accomplish what I sought to achieve with one page, a decline in efficiency of some 5,000%. I'm just saying.

Beyond my general support for the bill, I do have 16 recommendations that might improve it, which are listed on pages 5 through 7 of the written submission that you received. There are three general ones and 13 others that arose in my section-by-section review of the bill.

A couple of the key ones are that, first, it would be much easier to identify boat ownership if Canada consolidates and improves our boat registry databases and, second, that abandoned vessels are more a Transport than a Fisheries issue, and the Coast Guard is more a Transport arm of government than an aspect of Fisheries.

The Canadian Coast Guard ought to reside within the Transport Canada ministry where it used to be, not with Fisheries and Oceans. If you're unsure about this, just consider which committee is reviewing Bill C-64 as we speak today: it's your committee, Transport, not Fisheries. While a reorganization to achieve a more streamlined Coast Guard lies beyond the ambit of Bill C-64, I do recommend that such a change be considered.

I see that my time is almost up, but if this committee desires, I can, in under two minutes, later run through 14 more recommendations to help move Bill C-64 from good to great.

I believe that positive values have motivated those who have contributed to this bill, not partisan self-promotion. It is not in self-promotion but because I really believe what I say that I will close with a quote from my own book: “For the good of society, let's pray for leaders who model these values, for people who pursue the community's interest over their own, who seek leadership for the good of the people they serve.”

In supporting this bill, you're doing just that. Thank you.

Abandoned VesselsPrivate Members' Business

October 24th, 2016 / 11:45 a.m.
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Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise to address this issue as a member of Parliament who does not come from a coastal community, but nonetheless sees the importance of this motion and the impact it would have, not just on coastal communities but throughout the country.

We are dealing with a motion that I support because it moves in a positive direction. At the same time, a motion does not have the same authority as legislation. The motion seeks to set us in a direction on this issue. I will mention later a previous actual bill that was proposed by former MP John Weston. We need to see legislation as well as a motion as this will express the will of the House with respect to the direction we want to go. However, it is important that we move forward legislatively to address this important issue for reasons I will go into and for reasons I know many of my colleagues have discussed quite well.

Derelict and abandoned vessels was not an issue I heard about at the doors in Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan. I heard about a lot of different issues. Having listened to the debate, having dug into this topic, it is very clear that this does have an impact on my constituents in a number of different ways. One way is the cost. Members have spoken about the cost implications of the large number of derelict and abandoned vessels, and the cost implications of not currently having an effective framework in place for responding to this problem.

There is the cost implication, which affects all taxpayers in all parts of the country. Even if the cost falls on provincial governments, on municipalities, there is obviously an interconnectedness in the transfer of resources between different levels of government. There is only one taxpayer at the end of the day. This is important for the impact it would have on my constituents as well as people in other parts of the country.

There is the environmental impact. All of us are invested in having and maintaining the vibrancy of our coastlines from an environmental perspective. These are places that my constituents visit on a regular basis and appreciate the opportunity to do so. They appreciate the benefits that come with tourism and environmental beauty in those places.

There is also the impact on commerce for my constituency, the importance of our coastlines, of our ports for imports and exports. This has a consequential impact for them as well, even for people who do not live in coastal communities.

That is why I am pleased to see this and to speak in favour of this and to encourage members of the House as well to consider the next steps that come out of the motion. Hopefully we will be able to move forward, even in this Parliament, with some kind of legislative response in the future.

Just by way of context, we have a situation right now where it is estimated that there are close to 400 abandoned vessels. Again, as somebody who does not come from a coastal community, this would seem surprising that people simply would abandon their property in the middle of nature. Certainly that would not happen with a truck or RV. Nobody would think that was a normal or acceptable thing to do, yet we have the issue of abandoned vessels that are causing problems along our coastline.

Right now, municipalities in many cases lack the means to do it, financial or otherwise, and the Coast Guard will only remove vessels if there is an assessment that there is some kind of imminent environmental risk in place.

This leaves us where we are, which is with this very large number of abandoned vessels. In cases where removal is required, there is a significant cost associated with it. My colleague from South Shore—St. Margarets, in her initial speech on this, referred to a vessel that cost $12 million to remove. The vessels name was the MV Miner. That is an enormous sum of money. If we can have a framework in place that deals with this proactively, it actually prevents the problem from existing and prevents the need to respond to it later. That is a lot of money saved. The costs for dealing with vessels will vary widely, depending on the size, the kind of vessel and these sorts of things, but costs can be up into the millions of dollars, as we have heard.

Clearly we have a reason as a House to try to address proactively to confront the problem of existing abandoned vessels, but also to try to put in place an effective framework that will prevent us from having to expend these kinds of dollars in the future. That is the context and that is what we are trying to confront today.

The motion has a number of different aspects to it.

It calls on the government to address the issue of existing abandoned vessels and it puts in place a timeline to do so, and that is important. It is valuable when we have motions in place to say by when and to define the process so it is not just a purely an aspirational statement.

It then calls for prohibition of abandonment and realistic penalties to put in place mechanisms to ensure people do not abandon vessels in the future.

Associated with that, we have the educational component. It is important, if we are to put in new place new rules, for those who own vessels and may be affected by this new framework to be aware of the framework and to be prepared to respond to it. The educational component goes with those new prohibitions and penalties.

The fourth important issue, which ties into this issue of effective enforcement, is improved vessel owner identification. Therefore, if there is an abandoned vessel, there is a good mechanism for ensuring that the person who is responsible for that abandonment can be identified, or at least the owner of the vessel can be, to start the process to ensure there is some real accountability in place.

Finally, there is a mechanism in place for government assistance to address this issue over the long term.

There are a number of different components to the motion, all of which have an important place as part of the discussion to say we have to address the issue of existing abandoned vessels, but also proactively. That proactive part not only is important for the environment. Dealing with the existing vessels addresses the current environmental challenges, but proactively in the future hopefully we can not only prevent the potential environmental problems, but also deal with the cost factor, preventing the taxpayer from being on the hook for some of these costs, whether it be municipal, provincial, or federal taxpayers.

Having spoken in favour of the motion, as much as possible, it is important for us to move forward with legislation, not just with motions. Motions express the will of the House, the aspirations, the opinions of the House, but they are not binding on the government. The government is not required to respond or to implement. Although the motion imagines a legislative framework and lays it out, legislation is needed to bind the actions of government and certainly of people outside of the government.

It is unfortunate but we do have cases where the House passes motions, but the government then chooses not to act on them, or the government in some way reinterprets them to say that the motion did not really mean this, that it meant something else. This is always the challenge when we have discussions of motions in the House.

As I mentioned, a former member of Parliament, John Weston from B.C., had Bill C-695, which did not contain all the different components in this motion. Perhaps one advantage of a motion is that we can, no pun intended, cast the net wider, but legislation has that added force.

Bill C-695 prohibited vessel abandonment and it introduced penalties to do so. It dealt with that proactive potential future abandonment of vessels issue, and that was good legislation. I would certainly support that legislation if it were brought back before the House. Maybe another member, or maybe even the government, will see fit to bring forward Bill C-695 from the previous Parliament and the great work done on that by Conservative member John Weston.

Overall, this is a positive motion. We like the direction in which it goes. It is a step in the right direction. It does not get us all the way to the finish line, but it is an important step. I congratulate the member for bringing it forward and I look forward to supporting it at second reading.

Abandoned VesselsPrivate Members' Business

June 6th, 2016 / 11:50 a.m.
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Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House today as the member for North Okanagan—Shuswap and deputy critic for fisheries and oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard.

I rise today to speak on Motion No. 40, a motion to address the issue of abandoned and derelict vessels. I thank the member for South Shore—St. Margarets for bringing the motion to the House, because the issue of abandoned and derelict vessels poses real problems to communities right across Canada.

The House debated the matter of abandoned and derelict vessels in its examination of three private member's bills during the 41st Parliament, and I sincerely hope this 42nd Parliament can muster the will and consensus to deliver a new system for dealing with abandoned and derelict vessels.

In approaching this debate, I must say that an important component of such a system must be upholding the responsibility of those who own the vessels to remove or dispose of their vessels in a responsible manner. I understand that a major obstacle to holding some owners accountable to their responsibilities is the absence of an effective tracking of ownership, and I hope this debate can produce some solutions in this regard.

Having spent nearly 40 years in the marine industry, I have witnessed the expansion and evolution of boating and vessels plying our waters. Whether it be along our coastlines, our navigable rivers, or in our inland lakes, we are seeing the size and numbers of vessels ever increasing. As such, today's debate regarding abandoned and derelict vessels acknowledges the current and future need for a Canada-wide management system for dealing with this problem when it arises.

People from around the world and across Canada have been building boats for centuries. The early vessels, which were made mostly of wood, were somewhat biodegradable and as such posed less of a threat of polluting or contaminating the waters if they were abandoned. As demands for shipbuilding and associated technologies increased, so did the lifespan and operating costs of the vessels being built.

New technologies also brought with them the need for fuel and other fluids for operating these vessels. Abandoned or derelict vessels containing fluids and fuels pose a very real risk to fouling the waters and habitats. This is something on which we can all agree we must work toward preventing.

Despite advancements in manufacturing technologies and materials, every vessel has a limited lifespan and at some point the cost of maintenance outweighs the cost of replacing a vessel. As these vessels, large and small, age and become more and more costly to maintain, they are often sold, down the line, to other owners that are less financially prepared to spend large amounts of money on new purchases or on maintaining and refitting.

This happens with small and large vessels alike. I have seen examples of this in my home riding of North Okanagan—Shuswap, where we are blessed with world-class boating on our lakes and river systems. However, as the vessels on these waterways age and become less seaworthy, owners often look to free themselves of the cost of maintenance or disposal.

Sometimes this is done by selling the vessel to someone motivated to become a boat owner, who thinks they are getting a bargain deal. Unfortunately, the purchasers in these situations find out too late that the real reason the vessel was sold was the cost required to maintain or repair the vessel. Whether the original owner simply gives up on maintaining the vessel or passes the albatross on to another unsuspecting owner, occasionally the end result is the abandonment of the vessel.

I know that even in the transfer of a vessel destined for the scrapyard, vessels can end up abandoned if the new owner runs out of liquidity or a sudden dip in the value of scrap metal makes the scrapping operation economically senseless.

On our smaller waterways, with smaller craft, it is not usually a major issue, but on our ocean coastlines or our navigable rivers, we do not want to see our bays, harbours, and beaches become a dumping ground for financially strapped or unscrupulous owners.

The threat that such dumping poses to the environment and to public safety on the waters can and must be prevented.

As an example of this, just last month my office was contacted regarding an abandoned houseboat left on a beach on Shuswap Lake. The vessel had been tied at this location for a number of years and had each year risen and fallen with the rising and falling levels of the lake. This year as the lake levels rose the houseboat did not, causing great concern for nearby property owners and local government officials. Concerns over potential fuel and oil leakage and public safety were difficult to address. Numerous calls by a concerned local resident only led to frustration from being passed from one government department to another. The uncertainty of which government or department held responsibility brought more concerns over delays in action. Thankfully in the past days, our provincial government has taken action and remedial measures are taking place. This is but one example of how an improved system of tracking vessel ownership, vessel transfer, and ownership responsibilities and accountability could help protect our waterways and our taxpayers.

One challenge of tracking vessel ownership is the fact that late-in-vessel-life transfers are not always tracked through the Canadian Register of Vessels. This can happen if the parties involved are not aware of their responsibilities to report the transfer or they do not declare the transfer to avoid payment of taxes. The end result is that the actual owner may not be the owner on record in the federal registry. As such, it is often difficult if not impossible to ensure the cost of removal and cleanup goes to the vessel owner and does not end up with the public taxpayer. Establishing a system to deal with this issue will require much collaboration with all levels of government. Municipal, regional, provincial, federal, and international governing bodies will all need to work together to answer questions. Those are questions such as the following: How will Canada deal with foreign ownership of vessels left in Canadian waters; how will we deal with bankrupt or insolvent owners; how will we deal with untracked vessel sales? While answering these questions, I would call on all discussants to develop legislation and regulations that do not place a greater burden on Canadian taxpayers.

How do we develop legislation that places the onus on the vessel owners, making them aware of their responsibilities and holding them accountable so that in the end our harbours, communities, local governments, and government departments do not bear the cost of removal? That should be borne by the vessel owners.

As previously mentioned during the 41st Parliament, the previous member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, John Weston, introduced Bill C-695, An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, which sought to establish a prohibition against abandonment of vessels. This bill would have introduced significant penalties for abandonment of vessels. Unfortunately, this bill did not make it through the legislative process prior to the 2015 election.

We will find that a system for preventing and dealing with abandoned and derelict vessels must include at least the following: an improved system for vessel registration and tracking; measures to confirm vessel owners are educated on and aware of their legal responsibilities upon purchase and sale of a vessel; and measures, including penalties and enforcement powers, holding vessel owners accountable for their responsibilities. I believe that such a system is needed and welcomed by Canadians. I believe that any such system must be sustainable and effective, with the federal government providing leadership. Such a system should cast no department or level of government simply as a janitor of our shorelines at the taxpayers' expense.

I will be supporting this motion from the member for South Shore—St. Margarets. If the government adopts this motion, I will be willing to work with her and others to find solutions to the issue of abandoned and derelict vessels in a way that is good for Canada and all Canadians.

Abandoned VesselsPrivate Members' Business

June 6th, 2016 / 11:20 a.m.
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Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Hope, BC

Mr. Speaker, as I said previously, I would like to thank the member for South Shore—St. Margarets for bringing forward this motion.

I am pleased to rise today as the official opposition critic for fisheries, oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard to speak in favour of Motion No. 40. I will be voting in favour of it, and I will be encouraging my colleagues in the official opposition to do the same.

Motion No. 40 proposes that the government explore legislative options prohibiting the abandonment of a vessel, suggests an educational component on responsible vessel ownership, recommends improving vessel registration, and calls upon the government to assist in the removal of abandoned vessels where its presence creates an economic burden for a community.

I know that my colleague, the member for North Okanagan—Shuswap and the deputy critic for fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard for the official opposition, will be sharing some compelling examples of that in his speech later on in this debate.

Vessels that are abandoned by their owners pose a serious challenge to Canada's coastal communities. Abandoned vessels can pose an imminent risk of environmental damage and can interfere in navigation. Ships left to drift or rot can cause long-term environmental damage, endanger other craft on the water, and create a general eyesore.

We know that derelict vessels are a major irritant and concern for municipalities and port authorities across the country, as they do not fall under local bylaws and local authorities often lack the financial means to deal with these abandoned vessels. That is certainly true for smaller communities.

Currently, vessels are removed by the Canadian Coast Guard or Transport Canada only if there is an imminent risk of environmental damage or if they are obstructing navigation.

Back in 2012, a Transport Canada study on the issue of abandoned and derelict vessels in Canada drew a number of conclusions. It was estimated that there were 397 abandoned and derelict vessels in Canada. The removal of these vessels could range from $1,500 to $3,000 for small vessels to hundreds of thousands of dollars for large vessels. We certainly heard from the member for South Shore—St. Margarets that some stretch into the millions.

Abandoned and derelict vessels are an issue being addressed by a growing number of municipalities and private shoreline property owners, and their removal is costly and requires significant technical resources. It is challenging or impossible to identify owners of such vessels, and consequently municipal governments or property owners may have to deal with the issue and pay for the removal themselves. There is also a lack of co-ordination of the type of information that is collected across the country, and it is not possible to do a cost estimate for the removal of all known abandoned and derelict vessels.

The report recommended that an interjurisdictional working group be formed to address the issue and to provide recommendations on identified issues, including creating definitions of the terms “abandoned vessel” and “derelict vessel”; developing relevant legislative and regulatory tools and a gap analysis to identify all responsible federal, provincial, and municipal authorities; highlighting methods used to identify owners; identifying potential sources of funding to remove abandoned and derelict vessels, including short-term and long-term options; creating a central inventory; developing training, communication, and awareness material; and facilitating the sharing of information in relation to the removal of abandoned and derelict vessels.

For these reasons, the former member of Parliament for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, John Weston, introduced a private members bill in the last parliament to address a number of the issues related to derelict and abandoned vessel. Bill C-695, An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (prohibition against abandonment of vessel), would have amended provisions in part 2 of the Canada Shipping Act in order to prohibit the abandonment of a vessel. Clause 1 would have added the definition of “deemed abandoned” in section 210, describing when a vessel is considered abandoned. Clause 3 would have added the offence of abandonment of a vessel, liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than $100,000 or imprisonment for a term of not more than one year, or both.

Bill C-695 recognized that boat owners needed to be held accountable for their own vessels, just as this motion “recognizes the requirement for the prohibition against the abandonment of a vessel”.

In the last election, as part of our platform, the Conservative Party promised to support the provisions of Bill C-695. We also proposed to set aside $1 million per year, beginning in 2016-17, to cover one-third of the cost of removing priority derelict vessels.

Over the years, a number of proposals were brought before the House that would take a different path. Two nearly identical bills, Bill C-231 and Bill C-638, would have shifted the burden from vessel owners to Canadian taxpayers.

Clause 1 of Bill C-638 would have designated the Canadian Coast Guard as the receiver of wreck. Clause 2 proposed to change the discretionary power found in section 155(3) of the Canada Shipping Act into an obligation for the receiver of wreck to take measures in order to remove, dispose or destroy a wreck.

Clause 3 of the bill would have given the minister of transport and the minister of fisheries and oceans regulatory powers respecting appropriate measures the receivers of wreck must take or direct to be taken to remove, dispose of or destroy a wreck, as well as exemptions from the obligation to do so.

Clause 4 would have required the minister of transport to file a report every five years before each House of Parliament regarding the operation of part 7 of the act.

There are a number of concerns with an approach that would designate the Canadian Coast Guard the receiver of wreck. The Coast Guard is considered to be part of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. It is not a separate legal entity and simply cannot be designated as a permanent receiver of wreck.

However, there is a larger issue here. Automatically making the Canadian Coast Guard the receiver of all wrecks regardless of the level of threat the wreck poses to the environment or navigation would divert the limit of resources of the Canadian Coast Guard from the current important work that it is doing. Scientific work, work to manage our fisheries, life-saving search and rescue work would all be compromised if we were to shift the responsibility of addressing abandoned vessels from shipowners to the Canadian Coast Guard.

Washington State has a program for derelict ship removal, a program that Transport Canada has studied. What was learned from that experience was that any remediation program that did not improve shipowner responsibility and accountability merely encouraged vessel owners to abandon unwanted vessels, relying on taxpayers to pay for the cost of disposal.

We must not shift the financial burden of derelict and abandoned vessels on to taxpayers. We must do more to ensure that vessel owners are held responsible for their property. We do need to take action, and this is a major issue in many communities in British Columbia and right across the country. The motion should be passed by the House so the work can continue on making our laws and regulations on derelict vessels more comprehensive and more stringent.

I look forward to the debate on this and encourage all members of the House to support the motion.

Canada Shipping Act, 2001Routine Proceedings

June 17th, 2015 / 4:30 p.m.
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John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-695, An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (prohibition against abandonment of vessel).

Mr. Speaker, it is with a sense of pride on behalf of B.C.'s coastal communities that I introduce a long-awaited private member's bill to counter the increasing problem of vessels abandoned on B.C.'s coastal waters. As of last year, Transport Canada had identified 245 boats that might be deemed abandoned off B.C., in addition to vessels abandoned on the east coast.

The bill is called a prohibition against abandonment of vessels, and it would provide jail time and fines for people who intentionally abandon a vessel. I hope that all members in this chamber will work with me to get this bill passed.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)