Coastal Impact – ELC Associates Program Update

One of the most compelling ELC Associates’ discussions (link to the Associates Program page on our website) this year explored BC’s marine spills response regime. Unfortunately, there was a recent incident to examine: the Nathan E. Stewart tugboat, which spilled hundreds of thousands of litres of diesel in October 2016 when it sank in the waters near Bella Bella, in Heiltsuk First Nation territory.

We were lucky to have Heiltsuk Nation elected tribal counsellor Jesse Housty join us for a two-hour call. In a moving account, Jesse illustrated what it was like to be on the scene immediately following the spill and the following days. It was a sobering tale of the damage a spill can have on a community above and beyond environmental impacts, and how difficult but necessary it is to coordinate clean-up efforts on BC’s coastal waters in a critical area the Heiltsuk Nation considers their breadbasket. As the community dealt with this threat to their food supply and environment, they were also faced with the influx of hundreds of people who travelled to their territory to respond to the spill and remove the vessel.

The Nathan E. Stewart may have been removed from the territory, but the effects of its spill on the Heiltsuk community linger. For more information, please see the Heiltsuk Tribal Council video Fuel spill: week one; and the Heiltsuk Tribal Council’s report.

Since 2007, the ELC has gathered cohorts of lawyers to participate in the Associates Program. Participating lawyers who practice or are interested in public interest environmental law join us for two-year terms. Each cohort gathers for periodic teleconferences and workshops, and some Associates work directly with ELC students on their public interest environmental law files.

This year marks the turnover for the current cohort. Many thanks to our Cohort 5 lawyers for their participation in the Associates Program. We expect to start recruiting lawyers for Cohort 6 in August. Watch this page for details: ELC Associates Program.