WWF-Canada Blog:

Our Canada includes the Great Bear Sea

Just after the federal government announced its plans to impose shorter timelines on environmental reviews of major projects in last week’s budget, the finance minister caused an uproar with his comment that these proposed new time limits will apply to all projects including Enbridge Northern Gateway.

If the government proceeds with this retroactive change to the law, the Joint Review Panel now underway for the Enbridge Northern Gateway twin pipeline and tanker project will be cut short.   Imposing retroactive time limits on an environmental review is unprecedented. And shutting down the process prematurely isn’t fair. The potential impact of this massive project on a unique ecosystem that is protected by a historic community based land management agreement are immense. Sending hundreds of oil supertankers —some as long as the Empire State building is tall — back and forth in some of Canada’s most dangerous seas and narrow ocean channels threatens the very health of the Great Bear Sea. This project deserves close scrutiny.


A Kermode bear (Ursus americanus kermodei) preparing to enter the water of a river in the Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada. © Natalie Bowes / WWF-Canada

More than 4,300 Canadians want to speak at the pipeline hearings. And putting a tight time limit on the Joint Review Panel will silence opponents, including many from the First Nations communities that will feel the impact first hand. The panel was supposed to continue today in one such community, Bella Bella, but a one line message from the regulatory agencies cancelled the hearings.


It takes time to examine how a twin pipeline of more than 1,100 kilometres, a new tanker terminal and the introduction of hundreds of crude oil tankers to a pristine sea will affect the environment. There are thousands of documents already on record. Numerous experts have looked at the impact in some detail. Even so, some issues have been given short shrift. Here’s one example:  ocean noise.

There’s mounting evidence that the effects of increasing and chronic underwater noise (such as that caused by large ships), affect the behavior of whales, dolphins and other marine life, disrupting their feeding and socialization and even undermining their health. Yet Enbridge concludes in its proposal before the Joint Review Panel that the cumulative effects of underwater noise from its proposed project are unlikely to be significant.


We need to account for all the development proposals slated to make use of Douglas Channel and the port of Kitimat. And when we do, it’s clear the amount of shipping is set to  increase from  fewer than 200 transits to over 1,100 (and of mostly larger, noisier ships) per year. There’s good reason to ask whether this is sustainable. Experts on ocean acoustics and noise – including those who work with WWF – should be able to properly evaluate and challenge Enbridge’s statement. The big question today is, Will there be time if the review closes its doors early?


Agencies like Environment Canada and Transport Canada have been rapped on the knuckles for not having thorough safety procedures in place, and not accounting forcumulative effects of their projects on the environment. There’s no doubt that when a project will transform one of Canada’s most spectacular marine and terrestrial ecosystems, it’s critical that we get the review right. It may take time –  and it will take science.


Let’s not shut down this Review too soon.  Our Canada includes salmon, whales, and dolphins. Our Canada includes the Great Bear Sea.



  • L.Puttaert

    I support your efforts to protect our valuable ecosystems and ensure proper review of any proposed projects with adequate involvement of the Canadian population.

  • Jemma

    Canadians voted the Harper administration into power as a majority government. If we want our basic, life-sustaining resources, such as water, to remain intact, if we want a landscape that nourishes us rather than harming us, if we want an intelligent federal government that puts its own people first, then stop voting for the Conservatives!!! WWF supporters, this isn’t about writing to the current powers at be anymore — this is about looking around you, to your neighbours, friends, coworkers (the people who must have voted in the current regime) and better informing them so that next election, we can elect a government that will begin to reverse these disastrous projects.

  • Jordan Golubov

    Our Planet is under tremendous pressure to continue to provide for humanity and to support diverse and healthy ecosystems. We are impoverishing it. Without a healthy planet, we have no future. Harper has decided on what is good for our country. It is a form of dictatorship. There is no response or respect for Canadians’ historic care for our natural environment. We must do what is right here in Canada to support and improve the health of our Planet. We have no control over what other nations do. We can only set a high standard. Harper is sending us down a path of degradation of our natural environment in the pursuit of producing and exporting dirty oil through our pristine wilderness. He feels that we will ultimately be seduced by money. Once the pipeline goes in and tankers come and go, we have a long term environmental liability. Spills are certain to occur over time. It is simply a question of how many and how large they will be. Harper and the oil industry is trying to buy out the native communities and trying to convince Canadians that this pipeline is a strategic asset. The most vital asset we have to offer future generations of Canadians is a healthy natural environment. This project will contribute to climate change as oil sands output rises significantly.One day, as our planet has warmed enough due to projects such as this one, the Chinese will be sending supertankers over not for oil, but for our water. That will be the day that our Planet has said to us, ” I tried to provide for you and I can do no more. Your greed has been your undoing”

  • Lana McQueen

    I am just sick to my stomach to think that our current federal government will be selling our heritage, land and water, down the tube for the all mighty dollar. I too have been sending letters off to the powers that be, but it appears to be of no avail. But the fight must continue!!

  • Bronwyn

    When I first heard about the pipeline project, I was completely heart broken. I really want to make a difference by taking a stand against what the government is attempting to do but unfortunately I am still in highschool, and unable to drive over to stand infront of the bulldozers. These kind of actions that our government is imposing make me ASHAMED to be Canadian.Not because of our landscape, but because of our government. Our only hope for Canada to be sustainable again is for the next generation to learn from this ones mistakes. Together, with groups like WWF we can spread the word and encourage young people to not make the same mistakes. Our planet can’t afford such polution much longer. I just hope that if this does end up going through with, people will overthrow the government after. I think Stephen Harper, is making a very bad mistake by allowing this to happen..

  • Darren

    This is rediculous they should haul it in trucks because cleaning up oil out of water would be more disasterous for everything that lives in the Sea and what we depend on.

  • Kishori Hutchings

    I wish I knew what else to do – I’ve never been much of a radical anything but I find myself planning on standing in front of the bulldozers that will tear apart the land to build the pipeline. I have write to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Natural Resources, my MP (who my the way, supports stopping the pipeline), 2 Federal Senators, the Premier of the Province, and a couple of other people in the provincial government. I get the same letter back – that is if I get a reply at all -except for Elizabeth May who is our MP. They all say that the reveiw is among the toughest in the world and that Canada needs to sell her resources. They already have decided they are going to do this the environmental review be dammed – they will not listen to the scientists, nor will they listen to the public. Stephen Harper doesn’t care about anything except the dollars – unfortunately, the Chinese don’t care that the oil they will burn will create a huge mess in our country.
    I had an idea the other day though – why not try and get them to bring the bitumen down to Vancouver? At least the tankers wouldn’t have such a difficult route and that would cut down the chances of a spill – it does put my personal coast line in jeopardy but at least not the Great Bear Rain Forest/Sea. So now I’ll write more letters.

  • susan timewell-jeffs

    Janet is right. This government is not interested in data that does not support their agenda. They are not interested in science. We need people in power who can see our world as a whole. What is bad for the environment is bad for us. We are only part of the whole system. When the environment can no longer support wildlife, it will no longer support us either. It’s amazing how people can’t understand that simple concept. There is no reason why we can’t have energy efficient, environmentally friendly transport. Government just lacks the will to make it happen. We’re dying of cancer at unprecidented rates; why put our money only into cancer research when it’s the pollution of the planet that’s causing it. God entrusted the care of this planet and all of it’s enhabitants to us; we need to step up and do the job.

  • Janet McVittie

    Canada’s current federal government does not want data. Data would demonstrate that their self-indulgent policies are bad for most Canadians, for most people, now and in the future. From getting rid of StatsCanada long form, to gutting Environment Canada of researchers, to shortening environmental review processes – the government is creating a culture where they can make decisions for which others will not have the data to show how detrimental the actions based on those decisions will be.

  • Ellie Kokotich

    Save the Great Bear Sea from oil production or any other type of intrusion.