- Published on Thursday, 06 April 2017 12:30
- Written by editor
www.raventrust.com | (250) 383-2331
On October 13, 2016, the tug Nathan E. Stewart ran aground in Seaforth Channel in Heiltsuk territory and sank. The tug spilled over 110,000 litres of oil straight into the Heiltsuk’s main marine harvesting area.
The tragedy could not have come at a worse moment. High seas and heavy winds combined with an under resourced spill response to compound the disaster. No sooner than they had secured a legal victory to protect their traditional territories from the Northern Gateway pipeline and tankers project, the Nation's members were out on the water facing the very nightmarish scenario they had sought to prevent by stopping Enbridge.
The Heiltsuk were first responders in the early morning hours of October 13. Through the day, as other responders flailed in confusion, the Heiltsuk quietly tried to do what was needed to reduce harm to their land and waters. Heiltsuk offered their traditional knowledge of the area to the Coast Guard, but were ignored until late into the afternoon — when it became clear that local knowledge about the area was critical.
Now, the Heiltsuk are preparing a civil case against Kirby to recover damages for loss of Aboriginal rights to Food, Social and Ceremonial harvesting, and the loss of their commercial harvesting of marine resources. They need to raise $150,000 to bring their strong case before the courts.
The case will raise the constitutionality of Canada’s oil spill liability regime. The case will also examine the actual state of Canada’s “world class” oil-spill response system. Proof of the poor spill response in this case may support increased environmental awareness, better safety measures and/or restrictions on oil shipping, and real improvements to spill response.
The Heiltsuk are also raising the lack of consultation regarding oil shipments plying Heiltsuk waters, and especially vessels without pilots. The Heiltsuk have repeatedly expressed opposition to tanker and condensate shipping through their territory, and have repeatedly asked for local pilots to be required at the helm. The Nation contends that the federal government ignored their opposition – their withdrawal of free, prior and informed consent – and now needs to be brought to court to acknowledge this failure and the cost to the Heiltsuk community.
RAVEN is proud once again to stand alongside the Heiltsuk Nation as they defend their traditional territories. Will you stand with us?
Thank you for all that you do to work for justice.
Susan Smitten, Executive Director
P.S. For photos, video, and a full account of what's at stake for the Heiltsuk, visit https://raventrust.com/heiltsuk-step-up-for-coast-heroes/Copyright © 2017 RAVEN, All rights reserved.
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