Heiltsuk Leaders Aim to Reshape Maritime Law to Prevent Oil Spills

Representatives from the Heiltsuk Nation traveled to London, UK, to call upon the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations agency, to ensure laws address Indigenous cultural losses from marine oil spills.

“We have traveled to London for two reasons,” said K̓áwáziɫ Marilyn Slett, Elected Chief Councillor for the Heiltsuk Tribal Council. “First, we are calling on the Canadian government to fully participate in negotiations to resolve the [Nathan E. Stewart] NES litigation with Heiltsuk. If Canada is serious about its commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Canada must show leadership by sitting down with us to recognize Heiltsuk’s cultural losses from the NES spill, rather than continuing court battles.”

“Second, we are calling on all IMO states to begin a process to ensure international laws provide redress for cultural impacts to Indigenous peoples from marine spills and shipping activities,” added Chief Slett. “We know we are not alone.”

Heiltsuk is attending the IMO on a delegation with the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), which is the only Indigenous non-governmental organization with provisional consultative status at the IMO, allowing it to send delegates to IMO proceedings.

ICC is working to ensure its permanent status at the IMO in 2025, as well as to support a goal of multiple Indigenous peoples participating in IMO decisions in order to empower all Indigenous peoples to contribute their invaluable perspectives towards holistic marine governance at an international level.