Leaders of the Heiltsuk Nation in British Columbia have begun taking legal action on the second anniversary of an oil spill that rocked the Bella Bella community in the heart of what is known as the Great Bear Rainforest.
The American-owned ATB tug Nathan E. Stewart, operated by Kirby Corporation, ran aground in Heiltsuk territory on October 13, 2016, after the watchperson fell asleep. The tug eventually sank, spilling 110,000 litres of diesel fuel, lubricants, heavy oils, and other pollutants into Gale Pass, an important Heiltsuk food harvesting, village, and cultural site.
Since the spill, the governments of Canada and BC 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.
Heiltsuk is seeking compensation for damages resulting from the grounding of Nathan E. Stewart and the subsequent oil spill. These include loss of traditional harvest and associated cultural losses, and commercial losses, as well as costs associated with oil spill response efforts, Heiltsuk-led environmental impact assessment, and other remediation.
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