A Vancouver Island First Nation is calling on the federal government to accelerate plans to build a marine rescue centre in Port Renfrew, following a potentially devastating container spill off the B.C. coast last week.
Jeff Jones, the chief councillor of the Pacheedaht First Nation (PFN), wants new Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson to prioritize the project.
“The PFN originally agreed to a partnership with the government of Canada to build a marine safety centre as a part of Canada’s reconciliation initiative with the Pacheedaht First Nation, but to date, the project has been mired in a lack of political will to get a real proposal from Canada on the table,” Jones said.
“We are hopeful that the newly appointed ministers will expedite a resolution.”
The federal government signed a memorandum of understanding with the Pacheedaht First Nation to build and co-manage a $22-million Coast Guard facility on the west coast of Vancouver Island in June 2020.
The deal was inked, in part, due to potential spills from oil tankers travelling through the area.
The new facility will provide search and rescue and environmental response services, and boost marine safety and response capacity in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Jones said that despite signing an MOU with the federal government and years of talks centred around marine risks on the Island’s west coast, no funding has been offered to the Pacheedaht.
“We identified parcels of land for development that would enable both the marine safety centre and economic diversification opportunities for PFN. We have provided detailed proposals and alternatives to the government of Canada, but unfortunately, we have nothing to show for our years of work except more dangerous cargo spills,” Jones said.
Officials from the federal government were unavailable for comment.