Haida Nation Cautiously Optimistic

Published by info@haidanation.com on

Oceans Protection Plan will benefit from government-to-government negotiation

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today $1.5b in funding that is, in part, a result of the Haida Nation’s work of protecting the Islands and surrounding waters from oil spills and other marine accidents. The federal government’s Oceans Protection Plan, will invest in marine assets and capacity on the east and west coast.

“We have pressed hard to have the federal government wake up to our reality,” said kil tlaats ‘gaa Peter Lantin, President of the Haida Nation, referring to 2014 when the Simushir cargo vessel nearly ran aground on the west coast of Haida Gwaii. “We pressed the issue in 2014 and made little progress, but under Prime Minister Trudeau we have seen movement, The Oceans Plan is a good beginning and we hope to see the feds take the opportunity to really engage government-to-government and build on the Haida Nation’s marine plans and policy.”

At a press conference today aboard the HMCS Discovery moored in Vancouver, the federal government committed to:

  • creating a marine safety system that improves shipping and, including new preventive and response measures;
  • restoring and protecting the marine ecosystems and habitats;
  • strengthening partnerships and launching co-management practices with Indigenous communities, including building local emergency response capacity; and,
  • invest in oil spill cleanup research and methods to ensure that decisions taken in emergencies are evidence based.

Canada has picked up many of the issues the Haida Nation has had on the negotiation table for years. Rescue tugs are near the top of that list and the federal government has promised one on each coast with the home base for each yet to be determined. Also in the mix are investments for towing and rescue capability, emergency response centres, new navigation aids, and charting.

“With almost 5000 kilometres of Haida Gwaii coastline to protect, the Plans initiatives add up to a good baseline from which we can build and address todays shipping issues,” said Lantin. “But, they cannot be tied to a federal policy that is supporting heavy oil and LNG. These improvements to marine safety and response

bring the federal responsibilities up to a good ‘median’. When combined with a full moratorium on tanker traffic, as the Haida Nation has proposed, and the Prime Minister promised, we may finally realize a protected coast.”

The Oceans Protection Plan is described by the Prime Minister as a “robust national plan” that will strengthen the Canadian Coast Guard and be tough on business and industries that pollute. He also said that to implement this plan, it will require the co-management of the oceans with First Nations. How that fits into the federal government’s commitment to reconciling its differences with the Haida Nation is unclear at this time.

In conversation with the Prime Minister following the press conference, Lantin reiterated the need for the federal government to invest heavily in the first responders who are making an immediate difference following an accident.

“Investing in people and communities is productive and proactive,” said Lantin. “Setting up industry to dangle ‘incentives’ in front of people is not. I truly hope that the Prime Minister saying, ‘to build a strong economy, we need to protect the environment today’, is not code for approving more pipelines and other environmentally damaging industries. What we’ve learned on Haida Gwaii, is that people will change the way they act and how they live to take up the responsibility of living lighter on this planet.”

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