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Nations support PM as he promises tanker traffic ban

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Compiled by Debora Steel







First Nations leaders in British Columbia offered the Trudeau government their support to implement an oil tanker moratorium on the province’s north coast.

“A federal moratorium would protect not only the ocean, but also our lands, freshwater and the plants, animals and communities that depend on them,” said Chief Stanley Thomas of Saik’uz First Nation, a member of the six-nation Yinka Dene Alliance whose territories represent 25 per cent of the proposed route of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines.

“We support the federal government on this. I think our boats are finally pointed in the right direction.”

The Ministerial Mandate Letters for Minister of Transport Marc Garneau, as well as Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Hunter Tootoo, direct that formalizing an oil tanker moratorium on B.C.’s north coast is a top priority.

“We have invested extensive resources and time to build a sustainable economy in our territories,” said Marilyn Slett, chief of the Heiltsuk Nation and president of Coastal First Nations, an alliance of First Nations along the north and central coast of B.C.

“An oil spill would devastate fishing, tourism, and traditional subsistence harvesting.” They are the backbone of the economy in the north and central coast and Haida Gwaii.”

The Coastal First Nations declared a ban on oil tankers in their waters in 2010.

“First Nations in B.C. have spoken together in clearly saying no to the environmental risks that Northern Gateway represents,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.

“The dispute between First Nations and the federal government over Northern Gateway has been prolonged and highly-charged, diverting resources away from the many other important issues in the region that require constructive, forward-looking dialogue,” said Chief Fred Sam of the Nak’azdli Nation, which is also a member of the Yinka Dene Alliance.

“I’m heartened that the federal government seems ready to move from promise to reality on an oil tanker moratorium.”

He said it will put to rest a toxic issue and marks an important step in improved relations between First Nations and government.