Vancouver – First Nations throughout coastal BC are renewing calls for a ban on crude oil tanker traffic, and say they must be at the table to determine what went wrong in Thursday’s diesel spill near the Heiltsuk First Nation of Bella Bella, BC.
“Our worst fears have materialized. It’s time for Canada to move forward on its promise to ban crude oil tankers on the BC coast,” says Coastal First Nations Chair Kelly Russ. “To prevent another tragic event like this, the Heiltsuk First Nation must be a full partner in the inquiry to come into what went wrong, not just presenting evidence. This must include First Nations involvement in any future decision-making about ship traffic transiting territorial waters.”
Russ says yesterday’s sinking of the Nathan E. Stewart tug in a sensitive clam harvesting area is a grim reminder of the threats oil spills pose to First Nations communities, cultural practices, economies and ecosystems.
“Looking to a future inquiry, we expect Transport Minister Marc Garneau to invite the full participation of the Heiltsuk and act on his mandate letter from the Prime Minister to honour “a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership,”” says Russ.
The diesel spill occurred less than three weeks after Prince William’s visit to Bella Bella to endorse the Great Bear Rainforest for the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy. CFN-GBI, along with other partners, was also recently awarded the EarthCare award from Sierra Club (USA) for its efforts to protect it.
“Coastal First Nations members have worked hard to protect the Great Bear Rainforest,” says Russ. “Now it’s time for the Crown to do its part by dealing with this incident and the management of future tanker traffic on a nation-to-nation basis on the North Coast.”