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Heiltsuk Nation, Canadian Coast Guard team up to enhance marine safety on central coast

Pilot project receives $5M federal funding
Heiltsuk First Nation on the Central Coast has entered into an agreement with the Canadian Coast Guard to develop a Heiltsuk Emergency Response Team. (William Housty photo)

A new pilot project between the Heiltsuk First Nation and Government of Canada will aim to enhance marine safety on B.C.’s Central Coast.

Federal funding of $5 million will go toward the start of the Heiltsuk Emergency Response Team, noted the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and Canadian Coast Guard Joyce Murray and the Heiltsuk Nation in a joint press release Wednesday, Oct. 26.

Murray said she was pleased to build on the important partnership with the Heiltsuk Nation to enhance marine safety and pollution preparedness.

Heiltsuk Nation Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett added the nation is excited to move forward with the important work of the nation’s “responsibility to keep our coast safe.”

Hereditary Heiltsuk Chief Harvey Humchitt noted the project will fill the gap in marine pollution response capacity on the central coast.

So far about 12 community members have been trained for emergency spill response and the nation has a little bit of equipment, including a recent purchase of some oil spill booms through working with the Coast Guard.

The nation has also had a Guardian Watchmen program in place for at least 15 years.

With the funding the nation will be able to purchase more equipment including additional booms, skimmers and absorbents, equipment that enables the emergency response team to act in the critical early hours of a spill if one should occur.

Through the pilot project, more community members will be trained regularly so there is a solid local team.

Mario Pelletier, commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, said the two groups have worked together for many years to improve marine safety and the funding will help further that partnership.

In March 2021, the Nation and the Government of Canada signed a memorandum of understanding to enhance community spill response capacity.

A long-term plan of the nation is to develop an Indigenous Marine Response Centre.

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READ MORE: Government of Canada and Heiltsuk Nation collaborate to develop a local Marine Emergency Response Team

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Monica Lamb-Yorski

About the Author: Monica Lamb-Yorski

A B.C. gal, I was born in Alert Bay, raised in Nelson, graduated from the University of Winnipeg, and wrote my first-ever article for the Prince Rupert Daily News.
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