Echoes of Dissent: Ship Breaking and Environmental Crisis in Union Bay
In the quaint coastal community of Union Bay, a storm of dissent brewed on a chilly October Sunday. Local residents and passionate activists united in protest against an unsettling neighbor: a ship breaking facility nestled in the heart of Baynes Sound. The rallying cry echoed outside 5084 Island Hwy, the headquarters of Deep Water Recovery, a company that had transformed a once serene log sort into a dismantling ground for derelict vessels since 2020.
Among the demonstrators, Marilynne Manning, a concerned Union Bay resident and member of Concerned Citizens of Baynes Sound, voiced the collective concern: the incongruity of a massive ship breaking operation in a residential haven populated by families with young children. She emphasized the pressing need to protect the pristine Baynes Sound, a sentiment shared by many who cherished the area’s natural splendor.
Adding fuel to the fire, Canada found itself in a regulatory void regarding shipbreaking, leaving concerned citizens without a legal safeguard. Gord Johns, the determined NDP MP for Courtenay-Alberni, stepped into the arena, passionately advocating for a halt to the ship breaking operation and stricter regulations governing such activities in Canada. His voice resonated with a wider audience, raising awareness about the urgency of the situation.
The K’ómoks First Nation, deeply rooted in the land’s heritage, vehemently opposed Deep Water Recovery’s activities. In a powerful press release, they denounced the company’s ship-breaking endeavors within their traditional, unceded territory. Their concerns mirrored those raised by the Comox Valley Regional District, highlighting issues such as the leakage of toxic chemicals into one of British Columbia’s largest shellfish supply areas, further jeopardizing the ecological balance of the region. Baynes Sound, heralded by Fisheries and Oceans Canada as an ecologically sensitive and vital area, faced an unprecedented threat.
Baynes Sound held immense significance, contributing substantially to British Columbia’s shellfish production. As of 2002, nearly half of the province’s shellfish output hailed from this bountiful haven, making it a crucial resource for both the environment and the economy. Yet, the reckless activities of Deep Water Recovery put this vital resource in peril, a fact not lost on the vigilant residents and environmentalists fighting for their community’s future.
The battle against Deep Water Recovery escalated to the legal arena when the Comox Valley Regional District filed a court proceeding in April 2022. Their argument was clear: ship breaking was not permitted under the location’s current zoning bylaw. The district sought judicial intervention, requesting an immediate cessation of ship breaking activities at the site. Deep Water Recovery, however, contested these claims, citing their operations as falling under approved categories in the zoning bylaw, a stance vehemently disputed by those in opposition.
The controversy surrounding Deep Water Recovery deepened with accusations of deceit and harassment. Residents, like Dorrie Woodward from Denman Island, were quick to criticize the company’s dubious transformation from a log sort to a ship breaking facility. The lack of oversight further fueled the community’s outrage, leaving them feeling deceived and vulnerable.
Mary Reynolds, another Union Bay resident, took a courageous stand against Deep Water Recovery, filing a lawsuit against the company. In her statement of claim, Reynolds alleged repeated intimidation and harassment by Deep Water Recovery employees, culminating in the theft and subsequent damage of her drone, used to document the company’s activities. Deep Water Recovery vehemently denied these allegations, launching a countersuit against Reynolds, further entangling the legal battle in a web of accusations and counterclaims.
The plight of Union Bay and Baynes Sound serves as a stark reminder of the delicate balance between progress and preservation. It embodies the struggle of local communities, environmentalists, and indigenous nations against the encroachment of industries that prioritize profit over the protection of invaluable natural resources. As the legal battle rages on and activists continue their fight, the future of Baynes Sound hangs in the balance, symbolizing a broader global challenge: the need to safeguard our environment against the destructive forces of unchecked industrialization.