Heiltsuk Critical of Federal Response To October 2016 Tug Sinking

The Heiltsuk have released a report on last fall's sinking of a tug off the Central Coast -- and it's highly critical of the federal government's emergency response system. 

The First Nation says the report makes it clear Ottawa is a long way from honouring its promises of joint decision-making with the Heiltsuk over land and marine resources.

The report, released Thursday, says within hours of the grounding of the Nathan E Stewart, on October 13th of last year, the failures of Canada's emergency response measures were evident.

Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett saying an extensive investigation by the First Nation details a long list of failures.

"Confusion about taking charge at the incident site, delays in the spill equipment arriving at the incident site, delays in deploying the booms in Seaforth Channel, insufficient and ineffective booms being made available," she said.

She also says Heiltsuk first responders were not provided with safety equipment or briefed on the health impacts of exposure to diesel fuel.

The investigation was based on information from first responders, the Coast Guard and Unified Command.

She says most troubling was the lack of information made available to the Heiltsuk in the hours and days following the disaster.

"The repeated efforts that we made to Canada for information while this was unfolding in our territory is not consistent with the principles of reconcilliation and the relationship that Canada is seeking to have with First Nations."

Slett is hoping the report generates answers -- and more importantly -- ensures something like this doesn't happen again -- because the impact on the Heiltsuk has been profound.

"We're so connected to the land and sea, it's affected food harvesting, the sustenance of our community, and every aspect of our life it's been affecting us," she said.

A DFO emergency harvest closure was still in effect for Gale Creek, as of the end of March.