Bella Bella, British Columbia — When is environmental damage too much? When is it acceptable? In what is being called “a relatively tiny”marine oil spill, for the Heiltsuk First Nations of the Central Coast of BC, the question is being asked in quite real terms, forcing government to answer the questions that it might have preferred to have evaded.
Since running aground in mid-October
, a small boat has been leaking oil into the Pacific Ocean, and along BC’s Central Coast. Despite the fact that this spill comes in the aftermath of the Royal Visit to the region
— a visit that sought to place the health of the coastline and all the life that dwells there within the global lens — there appears to be very little international interest. Making matters worse, there appears to be little interest from Canadian lawmakers on how best to reduce the potential for disasters like this.
Along the Central Coast of British Columbia, the Great Bear Rainforest
is seen as “one of the most pristine wilderness environments on earth.”
Stretching approximately 400 kilometers along this sparsely populated area, the Great Bear Rainforest has long represented the very idea of conservation and intrinsic preservation to Canadians and environmentalists around the world.
Of all things, the Central Coast offers access to the Pacific Ocean. It also provides a more-or-less direct line for fossil fuel exportation from various LNG (liquefied natural gas) sites
around the province, as well as tar sands oil from the neighbouring province of Alberta.
Even with the legislative death
of Northern Gateway, the region continues to be the focal point for resource extraction. October’s oil spill — which is ongoing — provides a visceral reminder of what is at stake in such discussions, pushing many local residents to demand a full tanker ban along the Central Coast
Yet, while the Coastal Rainforest is inundated
with thousands of litres of oil, the federal government seems content to remain reactive
. Rather than agreeing to the suggested ban, the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau instead proposed
a $1.5 billion (CDN) fund to help deal with oil spills after
Reactive policies like this leave the fragile ecosystems found in the Central Coast region to suffer contamination before they are dealt with, and offer no change for the way issues of sovereignty are evaluated
between First Nations and the colonial Canadian government.