First Nation sues B.C., feds, owner of tug that spilled 100K litres of diesel

October 2016 spill in the Seaforth Channel along the central coast near Bella Bella, irreparably damaged their marine harvesting areas, group says.

A B.C. First Nation is suing the provincial and federal governments, as well as the owners of the Nathan E Stewart tug that spilled 110,000 litres of diesel along the northern B.C. coast.

The Heiltsuk Nation say that the October 2016 spill in the Seaforth Channel along the central coast near Bella Bella, irreparably damaged their marine harvesting areas.

Nearly two years to the day of the Oct. 13 spill, the Nation filed a civil claim in B.C Supreme Court asking for financial compensation and a change to how petroleum products are shipped along B.C.’s coast.

Speaking at a press conference in Vancouver Wednesday, Heiltsuk hereditary chief Frank Brown said that the spill response was “chaotic and inefficient” and equated it to further “cultural genocide.”

The civil claim targets Kirby Offshore Marine, the owners of the tug, for their alleged “inadequate practices” that led to the tug hitting the rocks, spilling diesel and lubricants into the water.

It also personally targets Sean Connor, the master of the vessel, and Henry Hendrix, the second mate who fell asleep before the Nathan E Stewart was grounded.

The Nathan E. Stewart ran aground on a reef in the Seaforth Channel near Bella Bella, spilling approximately 110,000 litres of diesel and another 2,000 litre of lubricants into the water and causing an estimated $12 million in damage to the tug and the barge it was towing.

A Safety Transportation Board investigation into the spill found that neither Transport Canada regulations, nor the boat operators, had done enough to handle the “inevitable” fatigue brought on by the crew’s schedule.

READ MORE: Poorly-managed fatigue led to Nathan E. Stewart fuel spill

Speaking after the press conference, Chief Marilyn Slett said that her nation is still suffering the after-effects of the spill.

“There’s been a clam fishery that’s been shut down for two years. This is our winter economy, it brings our community through the winter,” said Slett.

“There’s the ecosystem in the incident area, the wildlife… it’s not the same.”

She feels like her nation was left out of the spill response and the environmental assessment that followed.

“It was driven by the polluter, by Kirby. Canada and B.C. did not feel like they had the responsibility to consult with us,” Slett said.

“The process is inadequate and does not include Indigenous communities.”

She said that the Heiltsuk were launching their suit not just to secure “millions” in financial compensation for themselves but to ensure that all First Nations across the province are better prepared.

“Our communities need to be trained, we need to have the infrastructure in our communities, the supplies… and we also need to have some management control over what that looks like,” said Slett.

“The incident command structure that was put into place does not include First Nations.”

Currently, the promised extra $1.5 million in spill response funding for B.C.’s coast is on hold, following the federal appeals court’s quashing of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

But Slett said that regardless of what happens with Trans Mountain, the need for an improved and more nuanced spill response is there now.

“Certainly, with the amount of traffic that is traversing through our territory right now… it needs to be improved, regardless of adding more traffic to it,” said Slett.

In a 196-page report released last year, the Heiltsuk proposed an Indigenous Marine Response Centre to protect the central coast from a similar spill.

In a statement, the environment ministry said that they were working with the federal government and would “engage with Heiltsuk as appropriate for a federally-led initiative.”


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Hundreds fill Chilliwack streets for Black Lives Matter march

‘Canada has a problem too,’ reads at least one protester’s sign

IHIT names homicide victim found in the Fraser Canyon this week

Police asking for tips into the suspicious death of 29-year-old Alicia Berg

$25 million Fraser Valley highway project 18 months behind schedule

Ministry says information security protocols have ‘evolved’ since construction on project wrapped up

Chilliwack RCMP heard gunfire en route to suspicous activity

Chilliwack man, 42, sent to hospital after shooting, RCMP have confirmed

Racism wasn’t dealt with properly by school, says Chilliwack graduate

Woman tells story of being verbally assaulted at school for being black

Trudeau offers $14B to provinces for anti-COVID-19 efforts through rest of year

Making a difference in municipalities is a pricey proposition

‘Like finding a needle in a haystack’: Ancient arrowhead discovered near Williams Lake

The artifact is believed to be from the Nesikip period between 7,500 BP to 6,000 BP

Indigenous families say their loved ones’ deaths in custody are part of pattern

Nora Martin joins other Indigenous families in calling for a significant shift in policing

Friends, family mourn Salt Spring Island woman killed in suspected murder-suicide

A GoFundMe campaign has been launched for Jennifer Quesnel’s three sons

Run for Water: Abbotsford man raises $100,000 running 100-mile marathon

Kevin Barata ran up and down Ledgeview Trails 32 times, exceeding elevation of Mt. Everest

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

Indigenous chief alleges RCMP beat him during arrest that began over expired licence plate

Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam calling for independent investigation

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

Most Read