WWF-Canada Blog:

A letter to Canadians from Iona Campagnolo

By Iona V. Campagnolo,  P. C., O. C., O. B. C.

From my childhood on Galiano Island, through my years at a salmon cannery near the Skeena River, to my retirement near Discovery Passage on Vancouver Island, my home has been on the BC coast. Like a majority of BC coastal residents, I am concerned about the proposal to transport oilsands bitumen from Alberta to Asia by way of BC’s north coast inland waters.

This is not a new concern. In the late 1970’s, as Member of Parliament for Skeena and a Cabinet Minister in the Canadian Government, I helped stop a similar proposal to use Douglas Channel as an oil tanker highway – only then, the proposal was to import rather than export oil. I worked with my colleagues to establish a moratorium banning oil tankers from BC’s north coastal waters. That moratorium is now, regrettably, deemed null and void. And today, the battle for the future of our coast rages again.

Islets off the Great Bear coast  c. Tim Irvin, WWF-Canada


I urge you to take an objective look at the proposed oil tanker route: through Hecate Strait, past North Danger Rocks, past the community of Hartley bay and the opening of Grenville Channel, up the narrow, winding Douglas Channel to Kitimat.  Picture a Very Large Crude Carrier – an oil tanker as long as the Empire State Building is tall – negotiating this treacherous route, with the added challenges of marine traffic from cruise ships to kayaks, as well as extreme weather, strong currents, rockslides and even potential earthquakes.

Where the Rivers Meet the Sea – River Otter in the Great Bear  c. Tim Irvin, WWF-Canada

The dangers are greater now than they were 40 years ago. Diluted bitumen contains more toxins than conventional crude oil, and is even more difficult to clean up – as we have witnessed with the reports from Enbridge’s 2010 oil spill in the Kalamazoo River. In an inevitable spill, cleanup efforts may well be hampered by the emission of toxic gases from condensate. By the time the gases are dispersed, much of the tarry bitumen will have settled to the sea floor, leaving behind a lethal legacy for British Columbia. The burden of risk falls on our province, from today’s taxpayers to tomorrow’s fishermen and generations to come.


This summer, take up this challenge yourself.  I urge as many people as possible to travel by water this year. Get to know the spectacular but demanding geography of the North Coast. Stop in for a visit with the Gitga’at people at Hartley Bay, and meet the people of Kitimat, including those of the Haisla First Nation.  Experience at first hand the coastal wonders of the Kitlope and the ‘Great Bear’ region.  Make up your own mind about the proposal to bring oil tankers to these inside waters.

This summer, make your voice heard. Public involvement remains part of our innate responsibility as citizens: simply stated, we are to protect the priceless inheritance from our ancestors for the benefit of our descendants. This is neither a radical nor a regional matter.  It is a human obligation for all of us. WWF-Canada and the Coastal First Nations seek your support.  They have mine.

  • Whats the point? Tell China to “go the long way” and route and buy oil from the TOP 4 above us (Canada is the 5th top world supplier for oil already) and then after that pour concrete over the sands?

    What will those people do for work? Pay money to re-train them all? And then all the spin off jobs right now?

    You’re talking about a pipe all of 3 feet that partially goes underground and if there’s a spill, make them face criminal responsibility, including a prospect if they cannot manage it, the govt will nationalize them. lol

    I cant see how people cannot look at the reality of the top 4 oil producing countries and just shut the door on China, just knowing they are going to have to go to those 4 countries anyway….it makes it so expensive for them…and the prospect of seeing all those petrodollars growing wings and flying to those countries is probably pain filled.

    Meanwhile China will be the leader on green energy, we are not going to have a bargaining chip.

    I realize this is unpopular opinion. I also believe it is naive to not consider that some people protesting the pipeline may have spurious reasoning, adverse logic, unrealistic expectations, are fear mongering, selfish; do not see outside of their own border and some may have an agenda not even related to the environment but money as well and the pipeline may not even impact them adversely that way at all.

    We see this in the US (right in the run up to the election) where people advocating for smaller governments, less handouts, subsidies are the very people who currently depend/receive them. It does make any sense!

    At the end of the day? I DON’T SUPPORT a new pipeline. Just like I NEVER SUPPORTED all the thousands of pipelines in place all over BC currently that serve Northerners. They do not need my support. They are put in place to address the needs of people who need more energy.

    Some of the people against tankers sound like they are saying opening it to traffic guarantees a spill to happen. I do not trust or believe that. I think we can have zero tolerance for spills and you call ME a dreamer?

    Maybe I am advocating to keep BC more paradisaical than even the most staunch so called environmentalist wants to push for. It isn’t impossible. If a spill is possible, why limit your mind to the prospect that its inevitable?

  • Elaine Morrison

    Sad to see the first comment on such an important topic is a correction, and the writer leaves no comment on his feelings on the article. Typical of this 21st Century.
    Personally Dan, I don’t give a flying rat’s ass if Iona Campagnolo was Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, or the Governor General of Canada. I once served the Governor General coffee at a gathering in Kimberley, British Columbia, and quite frankly, I still can’t justify in my mind the purpose of that particular position. At least Iona has a voice. Stay focused on the issue.
    NOW FOR THE IMPORTANT STUFF: Like the chuckwagon races at the Calgary Stampede, the oil spill is bound to happen. As a neighbouring province, when I see attitudes like the good old boys who run the stampede, which has been a family-watching-horses-killed-disaster and year after year they keep doing it, I could not trust Alberta with our waters…sorry folks. You just aren’t the people who have to clean it up, or live with the death of our wildlife and natural waters.
    British Columbians need to stand up and say no thank you. Asia can wait and quite frankly, there isn’t enough money in China to take this weighty risk.

  • don aldous

    While the article is interesting the byline is not correct. Iona Campagnolo was Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, not Canada. There is a lot of Canada east of those mountains and we have a Governor General. Provinces have Lieutenant Governors.