Tofino locals have put together a massive grassroots initiative to clean up Clayoquot Sound and their local MP took Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to task on Wednesday urging the federal government to dish out some funding support.
“Yesterday at the United Nations Conference on Oceans we were warned that the amount of plastics in our ocean could soon outweigh fish,” Courtenay Alberni NDP MP Gord Johns said in the House of Commons. “On the eve of World Oceans Day where is this government’s plan to clean up marine debris on our coast and will the Prime Minister provide immediate support for the clean-up on Vancouver Island?”
Trudeau did not mention Clayoquot Cleanup in his response, but did say his government is committed to Canada’s coastlines and touted the “historic investments in our oceans with our oceans protection plan” the Liberals committed to last year.
“It’s high time a Canadian Government took seriously the responsibility of protecting it and supporting it. That’s what this government is doing after too many years of inaction particularly by the previous government,” he said. “We are moving forward to protect our coasts and the people who make a living along them.”
With a two-year phased approach mapped out, Clayoquot Cleanup is the largest local debris clearing project ever launched and its founder, Tofino local Josh Temple, confirmed it has not received any government support so far.
“We haven’t received a dime from any level of government, including municipal, provincial or federal,” Temple told the Westerly News on Thursday. “We’ve completely funded this thing and we’re seriously underfunded.”
He said the group had raised about $75,000 so far, but another $100,000 would likely be needed to complete the first phase.
He said he and the rest of the organization were thrilled to see their local MP go to bat for their cause.
“Gord Johns is a champion of this initiative and to have him up there asking questions about whether or not were going to get funding to the Prime Minister yesterday was a very heartwarming moment for all of the team and the volunteers here at Clayoquot Cleanup,” Temple said. “We’re behind him 110 per cent in his efforts to secure funding for not only ourselves but other organizations up and down the coast who desperately need it.”
Clayoquot Cleanup officially began clearing debris on June 2 and, according to Temple, has covered 15 kilometres of coastline, removing roughly 60,000 lbs of debris so far.
“There’s a lot more there than we originally anticipated. There’s probably two to three times as much debris as we originally anticipated, which is shockingly sad, but we’re out there getting the job done,” he said. “It’s tragic when you walk up and down these shorelines. They look so pristine and beautiful from the air and from the water, when you’re driving by them in boats. But, when you actually put boots in the sand and walk up and down these shorelines and get into the bush and get into the log piles, how much garbage is actually piled up there is staggering.”
He added debris isn’t contained on shores as much has been pushed deep onto land.
“It’s quite a daunting task to be able to go to shore in these remote areas and face, literally, a giant mountain and wall of garbage that, sometimes, extends as far as 200 or 300 metres into the forest,” he said.
He said the massive effort has seen roughly 60 volunteers working in three-day shifts, with the third shift settling in last night. Anyone looking to help the initiative out is encouraged to check out their website at www.clayoquotcleanup.com as well as the group’s GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/clayoquot-cleanup.