In October, 2016 a pilotless tug ran aground and spilled over 110,000 liters of oil in Heiltsuk waters on the central coast of British Columbia.
The tug and attached barge were carrying oil through Heiltsuk waters despite Heiltsuk prohibition of oil transport through their marine harvesting areas.
Through inadequate government and corporate response, and despite Heiltsuk responders’ heroic efforts to mitigate the damage, the spill contaminated key shellfish harvesting areas and critical habitat for the Northern abalone. The Heiltsuk suffered a violent disruption to their way of life, their economy, their history and identity, and their spiritual connection to the land. The Heiltsuk had warned the federal government about the risk of oil transport through the stormy passages of the Central Coast.
Heiltsuk was one of the Nations that won a landmark case stopping Enbridge Northern Gateway in 2016. Tragically, they are now left dealing with long-term and catastrophic damage to the health of their land, waters, and culture.
The Heiltsuk are taking the polluter, Kirby Corporation, and the federal government to court. Through an organization called RAVEN (Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs), the Heiltsuk Nation raising $150,000 to help fund the case. Will you stand with the Heiltsuk?
“This is our unceded territory, our jurisdiction. Yet we’ve been largely shut out of information-sharing about an incident that shook our community to the core. The lack of transparency is alarming, and it should alarm every single person who cares about the coast.” Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett
The diesel spill contaminated an ecologically intact area, a rich ecosystem that, until the spill, the Heiltsuk had harvested using traditional, sustainable practices for millennia. The Heiltsuk harvested at least 25 food species from the affected area, including commercial harvests of manila clams, red sea urchin, sea cucumber, salmon, and herring spawn on kelp. The affected area is also a significant habitat for sea otters and the Northern abalone, an endangered species.
For the Heiltsuk, the spill is a catastrophic loss that will take decades if not generations to heal.