October 26, 2016 (Bella Bella) – A statement just released by Canada’s fisheries minister has left Heiltsuk Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett angered and dismayed.
“I’m infuriated by Minister Leblanc’s seemingly good news statement that suggests that now that transfer of diesel from the tanks of the tug Nathan E. Stewart is complete, we are basically turning our focus to pulling the dirty tug out the water and sending it away,” said Chief Slett.
Leblanc’s comments, she said, suggest that everything is under control and the end is in sight. “Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no end in sight for the Heiltsuk people.”
“The Heiltsuk have been told it could be weeks before the salvage operation even begins, and we’ve only started to scrape the surface to find out the extent of the damage done by the spill,” Slett said. “This demonstrates how out of touch and unresponsive Fisheries and Oceans is with what is happening on the ground in Bella Bella.”
Chief Slett says the fisheries minister needs to come to Bella Bella to see firsthand how much work remains to be done.According to Chief Slett,Fisheries and Oceans did not have anyone on the ground for close to a week after the spill and the Heiltsuk have been taking the lead on environmental assessments to determine spill impacts on local and commercial fisheries.”