Wednesday, March 26, 2008

“A natural result of the way the province and corporation have handled the incident”

The Federal MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley is onside with the people of Hartley Bay, who have recently filed a lawsuit against B. C. Ferries over alleged damage in the aftermath of the sinking of the Queen of the North.

The lawsuit is a story which we first posted to the Podunk site last week as details came out over the direction that Hartley Bay had decided to take with their frustrations with the BC Ferry Corporation.

In Tuesday’s Daily News, Nathan Cullen, explained his thoughts on the issue as part of a front page story.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Pages one and three

The lawsuit by the Gitga'at First Nation against B.C. Ferries for alleged damage following the sinking of the Queen of the North is a natural result of the way the province and the corporation have handled the incident, said Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen.

"It (the court system) is expensive and takes a long time but if this is the only way communities and families are going to have satisfaction, then I guess this is the path B.C. Ferries and the provincial government have chosen," said Cullen.

Last week, legal council for the community said they would be suing for damages, specifically over alleged damage to shellfish beds from the oil that continues to rise from the Queen of the North. The vessel struck Gil Island in March 2006 and went down with 240,000 litres of fuel on board.

Members of the band were among the first responders to the tragedy that claimed the lives of two people, but the band is now concerned that pollutants have caused, and will continue to cause, damage to its fish harvesting sites.

“They feel in a lot of ways they’ve been shut out due to the impacts of this thing and the long-term impacts on their area.” said the band’s lawyer Matthew Kirchner. “It’s sort-of-ironic, given the role they played in assisting BC Ferries early on.”

Kirchner said the lawsuit was filed in order to make it within the two year time limit for the filing of civil lawsuits in B. C. There will be more details added to the statement of claim in the coming weeks but he maintained the main concern is with the fisheries habitat. Of particular concern is the fact that BC Ferries has allowed the wreckage to remain on the ocean floor in Wright Sound, and whether all of the diesel fuel is out of the vessel.

Cullen said there seemed to be a lack of urgency during the clean-up.

“Excuses were made in terms of it being remote. When you compare what happened in terms of the clean up in the North compared to what happened in Robson Inlet around Vancouver when they had a spill into the water, it is night and day,” he said.

“One environment is treated differently than another environment and we don’t like being on the lower tier when it comes to protecting our environment,” said Cullen.

Nor did the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) report released earlier this month provide any answers, said Cullen. It too has left the victims of the tragedy seeking other ways to find answers, even if it means going through the courts, he said.

“Whether it was by mandate or by choice, they (the TSB) did not get to the bottom of what happened that night,” said Cullen. “As a result, liability and blame are still in doubt as to whose fault it was.

“Were all the emergency measures in place, was all the training done, were the appropriate people on the deck that night? We still don’t know and I think the result of this unfortunately is that much of this will end up in court.”

If the province had called an independent inquiry into the accident, things might not have turned out this way, he added.

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