Relocation of the 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron—Deficiencies in environmental assessment and need for public consultation

Petition: 384

Issue(s): Environmental assessment, human/environmental health, indigenous matters, transport

Petitioner(s): Resident of Canada

Petitioner Location(s): North Saanich, Sidney, British Columbia

Date Received: 26 August 2015

Status: Completed—Response(s) to petition received

Summary: The petition explains that the 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron is a Canadian Armed Forces helicopter unit based on Victoria International Airport land. The unit currently flies a fleet of six Sea King helicopters and performs maritime operations day and night. The petition notes that since nine new Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone helicopters are scheduled to replace and increase the fleet, National Defence moved its base of operations to a new hangar facility constructed on an adjacent airport property.

The petition asks whether the environmental assessment of this construction project, done as a Screening Assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (1992), included the anticipated noise of helicopter operations at the facility. The petition states that a 2010 Supreme Court decision listed operational noise as a factor to include in the scope of a project’s environmental assessment. The petition therefore asks National Defence to clarify why it decided to exclude helicopter flights from the scope. The petition states that there are indications that Cyclone helicopters may be noisier than the current Sea King helicopters. It also states that many residents have been complaining for years about the noise related to low-flying Sea King helicopters.

According to the petition, the Screening Assessment concluded that facility operations were not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects. However, the petition notes that the Screening Assessment process did not include consultations with the public or input from federal or provincial entities other than National Defence and the Victoria Airport Authority. The petition asks National Defence to explain its policy or regulatory rationale for deciding not to consult with the public and asks whether it will consult with interested parties affected by noise in the future.

The petition also requests information on the obligations that National Defence has under its lease agreement with the Victoria Airport Authority, including how it complies with environmental noise bylaws. The petition states that the Screening Assessment identified such compliance as a mitigation measure. The petition also asks whether National Defence intends to commit to a “good neighbour” policy to reduce helicopter noise in surrounding residential areas, as well as to address related public concerns.

Federal departments responsible for reply: National Defence