NDP calls for federal action and compensation for Bella Bella

OTTAWA – Skeena—Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen is calling for urgent federal action on BC’s central coast to help offset the devastation from the October 13 tug and diesel barge spill near Bella Bella. In a letter to four federal ministers, Cullen stresses the need for the government to support the people of the central coast who have borne the brunt of this disaster.

“This disaster has stretched the capacity of the Heiltsuk Nation and the entire community - in the very moment that they are experiencing their worst nightmare up close,” said Cullen in the letter addressed to Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic Leblanc, Transport Minister Marc Garneau, and Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett. “The people of Bella Bella and British Columbians at large expect you now to ensure that proper compensation and future spill prevention methods are put into place immediately.”

A central focus in Cullen’s call is for immediate replacement of the income of those working in the commercial clam harvest, which provides a livelihood for 50 families in the community. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans had closed the shellfish fishery near Bella Bella almost entirely, due to contamination from the diesel spill.

The letter also emphasizes the need for an environmental impact assessment and prompt remediation; investments in local economic resilience; a commitment to work with the Heiltsuk to develop better marine incident response systems; and swift action to formalize a moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic on BC’s North Coast, as promised in the 2015 Liberal election platform.

"You were elected last year on a promise to engage with First Nations and work towards reconciliation on a nation-to-nation basis," concluded Cullen. "Now is the time to make good on that promise."