Heiltsuk Nation is moving ahead with plans to purchase Shearwater Marine Ltd. near Bella Bella on the Central Coast of B.C.
The nation announced Thursday, May 13, it has signed a letter of intent to use some of the funds for the purchase from a reconciliation agreement it signed with the federal government.
Shearwater Co. has been a regional service and supply centre and thriving tourism destination, operating accommodations, a large restaurant and bar, coastal wilderness tours and a famous sport fishing business.
“The Heiltsuk Nation is excited to build on the legacy of Shearwater and to welcome guests into our territory in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest, when it is safe to do so,” said Marilyn Slett, Chief Councillor of the Heiltsuk Nation. “We have always valued the relationship between the Widsten family and our Nation, which has been one of respect and reciprocity.”
Craig Widsten, founder and chairman of Shearwater Marine Group, said the historic agreement is the culmination of a respectful relationship his father established with the Heiltsuk Nation in 1947,
“I personally thank the Heiltsuk Nation for their friendship, mutual respect and cooperation throughout my 53 years at the helm of the Shearwater Marine Group, and I believe this is the right decision at the right time. I am very proud of the service business and legacy that our family has established on the Central Coast and trust that the Heiltsuk Nation will lead the way with confidence and respect for the needs of all stakeholders.”
It is anticipated the purchase will go through by June 20, 2021 following due diligence and an inventory review.
“This agreement is an example of the Haíɫzaqv-made version of how to do reconciliation,” said Hemas Harvey Humchitt Sr., a Hereditary Chief of the Heiltsuk Nation. “It shows the hard work of our community and joint leadership is paying off, with the acquisition of lands and new businesses, and the creation of economic opportunities for our members.”
On its website, Shearwater Marine Ltd. notes it is located at the site of a former Second World War RCAF base that housed more than 1,000 men and aircraft that patrolled the coast. Andrew Widsten purchased a large portion of the property in 1947.
Andrew was the marine superintendent at Ocean Falls for 20 years, working for Pacific Mills and later Crown Zellerbach.
A former RCAF officer, Andrew knew the importance of setting up a marine service business at the location and for the next 20 years developed the business.
In 1967 Andrew and his wife Jean retired and the Shearwater assets were purchased by their son Craig Widsten, who over the next 50 years guided and nurtured the growth of the family business and surrounding community.
Shearwater is located in the Great Bear Rainforest on the West Coast of B.C. Situated on Denny Island about 450 km north of Vancouver, 3.5km east of Bella Bella and 100 km west of Bella Coola.
The Widstens were a Norwegian family that first settled in Bella Coola in 1894.