The tug boat Nathan E. Stewart is seen in the waters of the Seaforth Channel near Bella Bella, B.C., in an October 23, 2016. (photo THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk First Nation, April Bencze)

“Does Kirby care?” Heiltsuk Nation using geo-targeted ads in Houston, Texas for justice

The Heiltsuk Tribal Council has called out Kirby Corporation for the Nathan E. Stewart oil spill

“Does Kirby care?” is the question that will be posed to readers from Houston, Texas in their newspaper and on social media after the Heiltsuk Nation bought ads to fight the tank barge operators.

The Heiltsuk Nation are continuing the fight against Texas-based Kirby Corp. after the company was fined $2.9 million on Tuesday, July 16 for an oil spill contaminating the First Nation’s fishing territory.

READ MORE: U.S. firm fined $2.9M for fuel spill that soiled B.C. First Nation territory

In Oct. 2016, the Nathan E. Stewart spilled 110,000 litres of diesel and heavy oils. Chief Marilyn Slett of the Heiltsuk Nation said the incident affected 25 species harvested for sustenance by the community.

“Does Kirby care about our community which is a coastal community that has relied on the coast for substance? Does Kirby care that there’s contamination and we are no longer able to harvest? Does Kirby care that 40 to 50 families in the commercial clam fishery are affected a year? Does Kirby care that no environmental impact assessment has been carried out and he will not move forward with one? Does Kirby care that we are spending our resources, as a small community, in court as a last resort?” Slett said.

READ MORE: North Coast First Nation chief says one major oil spill could ruin economy forever

The newspaper ads in the Houston Chronicle and the geo-targeted social media ads direct readers to a website with an open letter signed by Sleet calling on David Grzebinski, Kirby Corp’s CEO, to do the right thing. Anyone can sign their name to the Heiltsuk Nation’s letter.

“We both know this sentence does not represent true justice. True justice would mean paying for an environmental impact assessment, admitting civil liability, and working openly and honestly to address compensation and remediation for the harm caused by the spill. You should work with us to help reform antiquated marine pollution compensation laws, rather than hiding behind them,” Slett wrote in the open letter.

The company pled guilty and was charged with one count under the Fisheries Act, for which they were fined $2.7 million; the Migratory Birds Convention Act, for which they were fined $200,000; and the Pilotage Act, resulting in a fine of $5,000.

Sleet said the fines imposed are not part of the civil suit the Heiltsuk Nation launched against the company back in Oct. 2018. She said they do not cover the cultural losses, costs for an environmental impact assessment and remediation for their territory, which she says has been polluted.

READ MORE: Heiltsuk Nation sues B.C., feds, owner of tug that spilled 100K litres of diesel

The fines imposed from Tuesday’s ruling will be put into an environment fund which Slett says the nation will have to apply for, and there is no guarantee they will fit the criteria or receive any compensation.

“We are a maritime community that has lived in our territory for 700 generations and survived because we had a healthy ocean. It is part of our survival and the spill had a detrimental effect,” said Slett.

To date, Kirby Corp. has not made a response to the ads.


Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
Jenna Cocullo 
Send Jenna email
Like the The Northern View on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter

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

Just Posted

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

Feds announce $8.3M to deal with ‘ghost’ fishing gear in B.C. waters

Three projects on the North Coast awarded funding

VIA Rail lays off 1,000 unionized workers across the country

Northern B.C. route Jasper to Prince George to Prince Rupert is not affected by VIA Rail layoffs

Hagensborg Water District purchases new fire truck; prepares for conversion to CCRD

Approximately $1.3 million of the district’s infrastructure grant has been transferred to the CCRD.

B.C. records 62 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths since Friday

Province has just over 200 active cases

Hotel rooms for B.C. homeless too hasty, NDP government told

Businesses forced out, but crime goes down, minister says

Wage subsidy will be extended until December amid post-COVID reopening: Trudeau

Trudeau said the extension will ‘give greater certainty and support to businesses’

B.C. government prepares for COVID-19 economic recovery efforts

New measures after July consultation, Carole James says

Tree planters get help with COVID-19 protective measures

Ottawa funds extra transportation, sanitizing for crews

Trudeau apologizes for not recusing himself from WE decision

He says his and his family’s longtime involvement with the WE organization should have kept him out of the discussions

Beverly Hills 90210 star’s family selling Vancouver Island Beach Resort

You can own Jason Priestley’s Terrace Beach Resort in Ucluelet for less than $5 million

Islanders want BC Ferries to follow order that lets residents board before tourists

For ferry-dependent communities, ferries are often the sole practical lifeline to work, school or medical appointments.

Most Read