Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Cautious Optimism the theme for many First Nations on Federal Ocean's Plan

Monday's debut of the Federal Government's approach to protecting the Pacific coastline of the province is receiving some cautious optimism from First Nations around the Northwest.

As we observed in our notes of Monday, the program which will cost 1.5 billion dollars to implement on all three of the nations coasts provides a focus on incident response measures for British Columbia.

Towards those plans the Haida Nation noted the movement that the Federal government is taking, but outlined that from their view it was only the start for government-to-government engagement on the issue and providing a reminder of the 2014 incident of the Simushir which was in danger of running aground on the Islands.

“We have pressed hard to have the federal government wake up to our reality" ...  “We pressed the issue in 2014 and made little progress, but under Prime Minister Trudeau we have seen movement, The Oceans Plan is a good beginning and we hope to see the feds take the opportunity to really engage government-to-government and build on the Haida Nation’s marine plans and policy.” --  kil tlaats ‘gaa Peter Lantin, President of the Haida Nation.

The Haida noted that with Monday's announcement the Federal Government had acted on many of the issues that the Haida had on the table for years, but also warned that the response plans can't be tied to a federal policy of support for heavy oil and LNG.

Once again reinforcing the Haida desire for a full moratorium on tanker traffic on the North Coast.

The full Haida statement can be found here.

The perception of the Federal announcement was also viewed in a positive light by the Gixaala First nation, relaying how Indigenous peoples have the most to lose and the most to offer when it comes to a response to marine incidents in area waters.

"When it comes to spill response, Indigenous peoples have the most to lose and the most to offer. The federal plan recognizes the importance of our traditional knowledge and expertise, our first-responder capacity, and our reliance on the ocean's bounty to sustain our communities," ... "The Gitxaala people will be closely monitoring the implementation of this plan to ensure it meets its objectives of safeguarding our coastline and fully involves Indigenous peoples," -- Gitxaala Chief Cliff White on the Federal Government's Ocean Protection Plan of Monday.

The full information release and the view from Kitkatla can be found here.

The Heiltsuk Nation continues to address
the aftermath of the sinking of the
tugboat Nathan E Stewart

(photo from the Heiltsuk website)
The plan also was of some interest to those living in the Central Coast area, with Coastal First Nations President and Heiltsuk Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett noting that the proof of the success of the Federal plans will be in the delivery.

“This is an important step but our Nations need to be involved at the nation to nation level in the design and delivery of marine safety and shipping management in our Territories,” ... “We want a joint management plan in which our Nations are fully resourced and making decisions about vessel traffic in our waters.”

The Heiltsuk and Coastal First Nations are currently at the centre of clean up efforts related to two marine incidents in the last two weeks, seeking to address the sinking of the Nathan E Stewart tug and gravel barge which sunk near Klemtu over the weekend, those incidents, as well as the 2006 sinking of the Queen of the North made for a significant part of their statement on the Federal program.

Updates on their current efforts related to the Nathan E Stewart incident can be found here.

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