Submerged boats hit jurisdiction obstacle

Private member’s bill would address derelict vessels

Anyone looking for an example to the problems of governmental jurisdiction needs to cast their gaze no further than the waters just off Beach Drive in Oak Bay. For more than a week now, two boats have been partially submerged just offshore near the entrance to Oak Bay Marina.

No one would argue the vessels represent both a navigational and environmental hazard. But acknowledging a problem and doing something about are two very different things. It’s a situation that Sgt. Ian Craib with the Oak Bay Police can attest to.

Craib tried to address concerns from the public about the two sunken boats last week. But instead of passing those concerns along to the appropriate body, Craib got a workout for his dialling finger.

The police officer started with a call to Transport Canada, before being directed to the Victoria Harbourmaster, who referred him to the Coast Guard. Craib’s work didn’t end there, as he was then shipped off to the Receiver of Wrecks before hearing that the matter would likely rest with Environment Canada.

It seems almost inconceivable that it could take that long to address what very well could be a significant environmental hazard.

One Island MP has put forward legislation that might end some of that runaround.

Nanaimo-Cowichan MP Jean Crowder has put forward a private member’s bill that would designate responsibility for derelict vessels to the Canadian Coast Guard. The NDP MP’s bill would obligate the government to act when derelict vessels are abandoned and ensure regulations will establish measures to be taken for their removal.

The absurdity of the situation playing out in Oak Bay is only amplified when one considers the numerous jurisdictions a nearby property owner would have to wade through over a potential disturbance to the shoreline. And there is no reason that derelict vessels should escape the environmental standards that legitimate property owners are held to.