An oil tanker anchors in Strait of Juan de Fuca as a man walks to his car along the grounds of Royal Roads University looking towards Esquimalt Lagoon following snowfall in Victoria, B.C., Friday, December 9, 2016. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)

An oil tanker anchors in Strait of Juan de Fuca as a man walks to his car along the grounds of Royal Roads University looking towards Esquimalt Lagoon following snowfall in Victoria, B.C., Friday, December 9, 2016. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)

North Coast First Nation chief says one major oil spill could ruin economy forever

Chief Marilyn Slett of Heiltsuk Nation near Bella Bella is leading a delegation in Ottawa this week

Leaders from several north-coast B.C. First Nations say if the Senate doesn’t approve a bill barring super-sized oil tankers from the region, their fragile but thriving marine-based economies will die.

The legislation would put into law an existing moratorium on tankers carrying more than 12,500 tonnes of crude oil in the waters between the northern tip of Vancouver Island and the Alaska border.

The legislation passed the House of Commons last spring and is now being debated in the Senate.

Chief Marilyn Slett of the Heiltsuk Nation is leading a delegation of chiefs and elected leaders in Ottawa this week to lobby senators to pass the legislation, which cleared the House of Commons last spring.

READ MORE: First Nation to sue over tug that spilled 110,000 litres of diesel off B.C. coast

The bill is strongly opposed by the Alberta government, which believes it cuts off an entire option for shipping crude oil. Premier Rachel Notley has added it to the list of irritants between her province and the federal government.

Slett says the waters the ban covers are difficult to navigate and a single major spill would be the end of her nation’s livelihood.

The Canadian Press

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