Parks Canada should pay Tofino beach cleaners after cargo spill, says MP

Gord Johns in the News

Source: CBC News

A B.C. MP wants Parks Canada to pay dozens of community members for their time spent clearing Tofino beaches that were littered with cargo debris.

Last fall, waste from Korean shipping containers lost at sea began piling up on beaches in Tofino and Pacific Rim National Park.

Parks Canada has since received $72,000 in compensation for the mess, according to the region's MP Gord Johns. But, he says the community groups in Tofino that did the bulk of the clean up haven't seen a dime.

"[There were] over 50 people coming out a day to help clean out the effort at its peak," he said. "[There] was a lot of community people that took time off work. It really strained the resources of those local organizations and community members."

"What I'd like to see happen is the money put [back] into those community organizations that did the work."

Lost at sea

The clean up was necessary because of 35 shipping containers lost by the Hanjin Seattle, a ship owned by a Korean company that has since declared bankruptcy.

Johns says community members helped national park workers who were unable to take on the mess by themselves, adding they supplied refrigerators, sheets of metal,and Styrofoam.

"We have great staff at Pacific Rim National Park, but they're chronically underfunded and understaffed. They put a call out for help, and we had great community champions that came to the rescue."

The volunteers included the Surfrider Foundation, Jamie's Whaling Station, and local First Nations. Johns says many of them paid out of their own pockets to help with the clean up, contributing thousands of dollars towards the effort.

The MP also says no increased resources came to the national park during the cleanup. But when he followed up with Ottawa months later, he discovered that Parks Canada had received $72,000 from the South Korean Bankruptcy Court to cover the costs of the cleanup.

Now he's calling the feds to deliver the dollars back to the organizations that actually cleaned up the mess.

"These groups ... really stepped up for coastal British Columbia."

He says giving the money back to the community ensures it will be better spent towards dealing with potential incidents in the future. It would also compensate the community for damage to the marine ecosystems.

"This is our food security and our beaches, and we have an opportunity to mitigate a lot of that damage should we have the resources to provide the coastal communities to clean up some of that mess."

"We're really the front line for trade with Asia, and we're bearing the brunt of that. And, our ecosystems are bearing the brunt of that."

CBC News reached out to Parks Canada on Friday but has yet to hear back.