Tanker Ban and Death of Northern Gateway Pipeline 

Since March 2010, Coastal First Nations have upheld a ban on oil tankers carrying crude oil through our Traditional Territories. The Coastal First Nations Great Bear Initiative has led wide-spread opposition to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project and called for a moratorium on all oil tanker traffic on the north Pacific coast.

In November 2016, the federal government announced two decisions: Canada quashed the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project and its proposed crude oil pipeline and supertankers, saying “the Great Bear Rainforest is no place for a pipeline”; It also banned all oil tanker traffic through our waters.

This is a double victory for coastal First Nations who depend on a healthy ocean for our food, livelihoods and cultural ways of life. Our communities have stood together in making choices that will safeguard our air, lands, rivers, salmon and communities for the future.

Nathan E. Stewart Oil Spill

Voices of the Great Bear – Beth Humchitt, Heiltsuk Nation

Enbridge Northern Gateway Project 

The 1,170-kilometre Enbridge pipeline proposed to transport more than half a million barrels of bitumen a day from Alberta to Kitimat on the BC north coast. More than 220 supertankers a year were to travel through our coastal waters, carrying crude oil for export to overseas markets.

The pipeline would have crossed more than 1,000 streams and rivers – over 800 of them in BC’s Skeena and upper Fraser watersheds. They would have traversed earthquake and avalanche-prone regions before reaching the fragile ecosystems of the West Coast.

First Nations Successes and Challenges in Opposing Northern Gateway
May 2010

Enbridge Northern Gateway submitted its application for the $7.9-billion project to the National Energy Board.

December 2010

More than 100 First Nations governments in British Columbia, including many along the proposed pipeline route, signed the Save the Fraser Declaration in opposition to the project.


Widespread opposition grew to Northern Gateway from First Nations, conservation organizations, municipal governments, the BC government, scientists and academics, and diverse civil society organizations. Coastal First Nations launched Canadians for the Great Bear campaign.

January 2012

The Joint Review Panel (JRP) community hearings for the Enbridge Northern Gateway project opened in Kitamaat Village on the Central Coast. British Columbians crowded JRP hearings across BC to oppose the project.

December 2013

A federal Joint Review Panel gave environmental approval for the $7.9-billion project despite broad-based public and expert opposition.


First Nations launched numerous legal challenges to the project.

January 2015

The Supreme Court of BC upheld a legal challenge by Gitga’at and Coastal First Nations requiring that: Enbridge undergo a provincial environmental assessment if it was to move forward on the project; The Province of BC consult with First Nations in its assessment of the project.

Fall 2015

A newly-elected federal government reaffirmed its pledge to place a moratorium on oil tankers on BC’s north coast.

January 2016

The Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the former Conservative government had failed in its duty to consult with First Nations on Northern Gateway and that Canada needed to fulfill this obligation before moving forward on the project.

September 2016

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visit Heiltsuk Territory to designate the Great Bear Rainforest to the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy.

November 2016

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a moratorium on oil tanker traffic on the north Pacific coast and Canada’s decision to quash the Northern Gateway Project – citing that crude oil tanker traffic would adversely impact the diverse and sensitive marine ecosystem of the Great Bear Rainforest.

May 2017

Canada introduced legislation for a formal ban on crude oil tanker traffic off the North Coast of BC. The proposed Oil Tanker Moratorium Act  would prohibit oil tankers carrying crude and persistent oils as cargo from stopping, loading or unloading at ports or marine installations in northern B.C. The moratorium area would extend from the northern BC border south to the mainland next to the northern tip of Vancouver Island, including Haida Gwaii.

The risks far outweigh any benefits

Coastal First Nations know that the risks of crude oil transport far outweigh the benefits. We also know that the risk of a spill is inevitable.

Recent marine disasters show that accidents do happen. The Nathan E. Stewart ran ashore and spilled diesel in Heiltsuk waters; the Queen of the North ferry sank in Gitga’at territory; and the cargo ship Simushir lost power and drifted for two days before rescue off Haida Gwaii.

First Nations know that a large oil spill could have similar impacts to the Exxon Valdez tanker spill that devastated the Alaska Coast more than two decades ago.

An expert report commissioned by Coastal First Nations Great Bear Initiative shows the potential impacts on our coastal ecosystems, livelihoods and way of life.

Environmental Impacts:

  • Threats to endangered and rare species, including fin and killer whales, glass sponge reefs, and the white Spirit Bear
  • Damage to, or loss of habitats on land and at sea
  • Population declines, particularly in top predators and long-lived species
  • The transformation of natural landscapes

Social Impacts

  • Negative effects on human health, well-being, or quality of life
  • Shrinkage in the economy and unemployment
  • Detrimental changes to land and resource use by our communities
  • Loss or serious damage to commercial species and resources

Economic Impacts

The marine economy is essential to coastal communities, generating thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue in:

  • Marine sectors ($386.5 million)
  • Commercial fishing ($134.9 million)
  • Seafood processing ($88.1 million)
  • Marine tourism ($104.3 million)
  • Recreational fishing ($90.5 million)
  • Marine transportation ($18.6 million)