Vancouver— Labour, community, and environmental groups have come together in a united front against the controversial Roberts Bank Terminal 2 (RBT2) expansion project recently approved by the federal government. They staged a press conference yesterday to underline their concerns over detrimental impacts on wildlife, the environment and job security.
The federal government on April 20 approved the $3.5 billion project to increase the Port of Vancouver’s container capacity by 2.4 million TEUs, but attached 370 environmental conditions to the green light. A critical decision for the project to proceed now rests with the B.C. government, which is expected sometime this fall. The groups have urged the provincial government to withhold the certificate for RBT2 under the Environmental Assessment Act.
The press conference was organized and endorsed by 14 organizations including the BC General Employees’ Union, International Longshore and Warehouse Union (LWU), Georgia Strait Alliance and the Wilderness Committee.
One major concern workers and unions raised was the threat of widespread automation in the sector. Representatives of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union say that RBT2 will reduce family-supporting jobs as existing terminals will be forced to automate to compete with the fully automated RBT2. They emphasize the need for jobs that do not come at the expense of the region’s ecosystems.
Rueben George from Tsleil-Waututh Nation said this project comes at the expense of the salmon, the whales and the water.
Mr. George and speakers from environmental organizations 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 the 370 mitigation measures and are deemed unacceptable by the opposition groups. Moreover, concerns have been raised about the consultation process, noted a press release from the Wilderness Committee.
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.
The concerns raised by the opposition groups 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, said the press release. “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.”
B.C. government urged to not approve RBT2
Among the speakers at the event, Charlotte Dawe, Conservation and Policy Campaigner of the Wilderness Committee, declared: “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 cancelling Roberts Bank Terminal 2.”
David Bradley, Regional Director of Birds Canada, stated: “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, said:
“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, said: “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!”
Roger Emsley, Executive Director of Against Port Expansion Community Group asserted: “Roberts Bank Terminal 2 will push The Fraser Estuary over its environmental tipping point — do not approve it.”
(Group photo shows, from left to right, David Bradley from Birds Canada, Rob Ashton, President of ILWU Canada, Charlotte Dawe with Wilderness Committee , DJ Pohl with BCGEU, and Lucero Gonzalez with Georgia Strait Alliance. Photo by Alex Hsyan Tsui, Wilderness Committee)
(RBT2 rendering image from VFPA)