A Central Coast First Nation says it plans to take court action for damages caused by a fuel and oil spill in its waters one year ago.
Chief Marilyn Slett of the Heiltsuk Tribal Council says the nation continues to suffer the disastrous effects the spill has had on its food sources, culture, and economy.
Kirby Corporation tug the Nathan E. Stewart and its barge ran aground west of Bella Bella in the early hours of October 13th, 2016. Hours later, the tug sank spilling over a hundred thousand litres of diesel as well as lubricants into Gale Pass.
Slett alleges that her community’s recovery efforts have been undermined by the federal and provincial governments. And she says Kirby Corporation’s refusal to take responsibility for the spill and to cooperate in its aftermath leave the Heiltsuk no choice but to turn to the courts.
The Heiltsuk aim to recover damages suffered by members as well as to examine the actual state of Canada’s “world class” oil spill response system.
Slett says the case will seek compensation for loss of commercial harvesting of marine resources and infringement of Aboriginal rights relating to food, social and ceremonial importance of marine resources — factors the Heiltsuk say the current oil spill liability framework does not account for.
“Government representatives travel the province, country, and the world preaching reconciliation and nation-to-nation relationships with first people. Meanwhile, back home, they are avoiding our calls and emails, excluding us from meetings, and ignoring our rights,”says first responder and Hereditary Chief Harvey Humchitt. “If the courts have to explain that this is not what nation-to-nation relationships and reconciliation look like, so be it.”
The Heiltsuk Tribal Council says it expects the results of impact assessments, legal analyses, and evaluations to materialize in the coming weeks.