British Columbia

Bella Bella residents frustrated by premier's trip to Buckingham Palace

Members of the Heiltsuk First Nation are disappointed that Premier Christy Clark is being honoured at Buckingham Palace today as crews continue to clean up the sunken tugboat on their territory.

Heiltsuk say Christy Clark should have visited site of Nathan E. Stewart spill and not the Queen

The Nathan E. Stewart tug ran aground on Oct. 12 near Bella Bella. (Kyle Artelle/Heiltsuk Nation)

Members of the Heiltsuk First Nation are disappointed that Premier Christy Clark is being honoured at Buckingham Palace as crews continue to clean up the environmental damage from the sunken tugboat in their territory.

Clark was invited to the United Kingdom to attend a ceremony on Tuesday with the Queen in honour of the Great Bear Rain Forest's inclusion into the Queen's Commonwealth Canopy.

The area, which falls largely in Heiltsuk Nation territory, was officially included in the environmental initiative when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited the area with Clark during their September visit to B.C.

The Great Bear Rainforest is one of the few places in the world to see Kermode or Spirit Bears, a rare white or cream-coloured black bear. (Paul Nicklen)

But Heiltsuk Councillor Jess Housty says since the tug Nathan E. Stewart sank over a month ago spilling over 100,000 litres of fuel and oil into the local waters, Clark has been absent during the clean-up.

"We don't feel supported by the province when these issues happen and when we see the premier doing photo-ops and collecting awards while people are breaking their backs and breaking their hearts on the ground," said Housty.

"It really shows me how poorly her priorities are aligned with her constituents on the coast," she said. "I would have hoped that she (Clark) would have had a greater appreciation of what is at stake here and the importance of showing leadership."

Other politicians have visited

Even though Clark has not been in the area, there has been some provincial representation.

Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness Naomi Yamamoto visited with members of the Heiltsuk and went to the command control centre in the community.

NDP Leader John Horgan also went to the area, including a boat tour near where the spill occurred.

Also federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc and federal Transportation Minister Marc Garneau have visited the area.

The clean-up of the site is being overseen jointly by the Heiltsuk Nation, the Canadian Coast Guard, the provincial Environment Ministry and Kirby Offshore Marine, which owns the sunken tug.

On Monday night they managed to lift the tug out of the water and onto a barge with a crane.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge walk with B.C. Premier Christy Clark and a conservation officer during a tour of the Great Bear Rainforest in Bella Bella during their trip in September. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)