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Environmentalists Watching Alaskan Spill; Parliamentary Debate With AM-A Silent Spring, Bjt

April 7, 1989

TORONTO (AP) _ Canadian environmentalists expressed concern Thursday over the Alaskan oil spill despite repeated predictions from top government officials that it won’t reach the British Columbia coast.

″Even if it doesn’t reach our shores, our wildlife that we share with Alaska already is affected greatly,″ oceanographer Silvaine Zimmermann of the activist group Greenpeace said in a phone interview from Vancouver, British Columbia.

Leading environmental groups also say that even if the oil from the largest spill ever in the United States or Canada doesn’t reach British Columbia this time, the Exxon Valdez incident illustrates that an accident closer to home is inevitable.

The spill, which has prompted parliamentary debate in Ottawa, is about 650 miles from Canadian waters and doesn’t threaten to change course toward the south, according to the federal fisheries, environment and transportation ministers.

Fisheries Minister Tom Siddon returned to the lobby of Parliament on Wednesday with a map of Alaska and his account that the spill won’t affect Canada.

However, James Fulton, who represents in the House of Commons British Columbia’s northwestern Skeena district closest to the spill, said his information was that the slick is only about 250 miles away.

That information ″is clear beyond a reasonable doubt,″ Fulton said during the emergency debate he requested Tuesday night. He is the environment critic for the socialist New Democratic Party, the third largest national party in Canada.

Fulton said Canada must be prepared to handle the spill if the winds should change. He called it a ″monster now starting to come out of (the) sound, and with pieces breaking off.″

″If the wind changes direction and picks up, parts of the slick will reach British Columbia. We can always hope that the wind doesn’t blow,″ he said.

The presence of supertankers in the sea lanes off of British Columbia has been a longtime subject of debate in Canada.

Ms. Zimmermann said some people consider the possibility of an eventual disaster off of the Canadian coast as a mathematical certainty, not a statistical probability.

She said that the wildlife shared with Alaska includes the parent stocks of sea mammals such as sea otters. She also expressed concern about the gray whales that are migrating north from their winter zones off of Mexico’s Baja California coast.

The opposition Liberal Party also supported the New Democrats’ call during the parliamentary debate for a federal inquiry into the safety of coastal tanker shipping.

Parliament returned to session this week after a three-month recess following the election last fall of a second consecutive majority government of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservative Party.

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