North Island reps unhappy with Echo Bay spill response

"The minister has not given any assurances that First Nations will be involved in future planning..." MLA Claire Trevena

The people who represent the North Island in Victoria and Ottawa stood in the Legislature and House of Commons last week to express their concerns about the response to the biodiesel fuel spill in Echo Bay.

In an interview with The Gazette, North Island MLA Claire Trevena said “First Nations were not involved in the response and had to push their way in to be involved.”

The NDP MLA said First Nations have to be involved when dealing with industry in their traditional territories.

Trevena challenged Minister of Environment Mary Polak in Question Period in the Legislature after the diesel spill from a fish farm near Echo Bay left a massive slick on the ocean.

“This is their traditional territory and they have not given social license for the farms to operate,” said Trevena. “The First Nations are running their own response team and they are seriously worried about the impact this spill will have.”

While the company has apologized and said it will learn from the accident, Trevena said First Nations in the area say that is not good enough.

“The minister has not given any assurances that First Nations will be involved in future planning for either industry in their territories or in the worst case, the clean up,” said Trevena, who later told The Gazette: “I don’t think she (Polak) was giving me or the people involved a definitive answer.”

Meanwhile, North Island MP Rachel Blaney (North Island-Powell River) stood in the House of Commons on March 7 to follow-up on a question to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans about the inadequate response time following the March 5 diesel spill at the Burdwood fish farm.

“This government proposed the Ocean Protection Plan, promising a world-class spill response,” said Blaney. “Yesterday the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans said the responders had ‘reacted very quickly to contain the spill, to clean up the spill’. It took nine hours for the first booms and few absorbent pads to be dispersed haphazardly and only near fish pens. Is this what the minister considers a quick response? If this is Canada’s world class response, we have a problem.”