Masset mayor praises Japanese gesture

  • Mar. 18, 2013 1:00 p.m.

Masset mayor Andrew Merilees is praising the Japanese government for its unprecedented $1-million donation to Canada to help deal with tsunami debris washing up on the west coast. “I thought it was a very generous donation,” Mr. Merilees said. “The tragedy, of course, was no fault of their own… I don’t know of any other country that would have done that.” The debris started floating ashore last year, about a year after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami devastated northeastern Japan. The Japanese government estimates about 1.5 million tons of debris was washed out to sea as a result of the tsunami. Japan’s consul general in Vancouver, Seiji Okada, said the grant is a gesture of goodwill by the Japanese people. “The Canadian government proved to be reliable friends throughout the most difficult of times,” Mr. Okada said. “Canadian thermal blankets provided much-needed short-term warmth to those exposed during the long cold winter nights in northern Japan.” Canadians donated $15 million to the Canadian Red Cross to help Japanese victims. Mr. Merilees said the gift from Japan marks the first time any government has provided money specifically for tsunami cleanup. Although the BC government has been working on a plan to deal with the debris, it has not earmarked money for the work. Mr. Merilees said it can be expensive to deal with large pieces that land on remote beaches. A concrete container that washed up on the east coast of Graham Island earlier this year cost BC Parks $15,000 to get rid of, he said. Queen Charlotte mayor Carol Kulesha said the Japanese gift will have to be supplemented with money from other levels of government. “It is obviously not enough funding, but it is an acknowledgement of how we are all tied together in this tragedy,” Ms Kulesha said. BC Environment Minister Terry Lake said some of the Japanese grant will be spent to remove garbage from coastal communities. So far, the amount of material arriving has been less than expected. Mr. Lake said BC has spent about $500,000 already on cleaning up the debris.