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.

Just Posted

Pregnant Cariboo firefighter tries to save own house from blaze

Julia Flinton and Anthony Sellars both worked on the 2017 wildfires

Road report for Highway 20

Fog patches and slippery sections; Drive BC

Woman killed in head-on crash near Vanderhoof

RCMP say driver crossed the centre line and hit a loaded fuel tanker truck

Mining company prospecting for gold near Bella Coola

Gold discovered in alpine areas where glaciers are receding

‘Tripod’ delays access to Unist’ot’en camp

Social media rumours of cultural significance quashed, meaning police “exclusion zones” should end.

B.C. storm totals $37M in insured damages

The December storm wreaked havoc on B.C.’s south coast

Chiasson nets shootout winner as Oilers edge Canucks 3-2

Edmonton moves one point ahead of Vancouver

B.C. chief says they didn’t give up rights for gas pipeline to be built

Hereditary chief: no elected band council or Crown authority has jurisdiction over Wet’suwet’en land

Condo rental bans may be on way out with B.C. empty home tax

Many exemptions to tax, but annual declarations required

UPDATE: B.C. boy, aunt missing for three days

The pair are missing from Kamloops

Daredevil changes game plan to jump broken White Rock pier

Brooke Colby tells council daredevil event would help boost waterfront business

Liberal bows out of byelection after singling out Jagmeet Singh’s race

Karen Wang says she made comments online that referenced Singh’s cultural background

Truck hauling compressed gas for ‘virtual pipeline’ crashes on B.C. highway

Driver charged and highway closed for nine hours - containers did not rupture

Most Read