Heiltsuk First Nation : Indigenous Marine Response Centre

Heiltsuk First Nation : Indigenous Marine Response Centre

The tug and articulated barge, known as Nathan E. Stewart, ran aground in Heiltsuk territory on October 13, 2016. The tug sank spilling 110,000 liters of diesel fuel, lubricants, heavy oils, and other pollutants into Gale Pass, an important Heiltsuk food harvesting, village, and cultural site. Since the spill, governments of Canada and B.C. as well as Kirby have left the Heiltsuk to fend for themselves, declining to do a meaningful post-spill environmental impact assessment to determine the extent of contamination and other impacts on the surrounding land, sea, and marine life. In the years since the spill, Heiltsuk conducted an independent inquiry into the incident which was followed by a comprehensive a proposal for an Indigenous Marine Response Centre to protect the central coast from a similar disaster. The report Creating a World-Leading Response Plan describes the likelihood and distribution of various types of marine incidents on the central north coast, examines best spill response practices around the world, and, ultimately, puts forward a plan for the IMRC that will vastly improve marine safety and safeguard the environment. In short, the proposed IMRC will: respond to 100% of incidents in the study are in five hours or less.

The report was prepared by experts in marine safety and engineering (CMO and TyPlan), and shares priorities outlined in the federal government’s 2016 Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan (OPP). In particular, the IMRC plan shares the OPP’s focus on indigenous-led responses and dedication to “a world-leading marine safety system that improves responsible shipping and protects Canada’s waters, including new preventive and response measures”.

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