Once passed, the oil tanker moratorium act would be an important step towards Canadian law being consistent with Gitga'at customs, laws, norms, beliefs, and values, adawx and ayawwx with respect to the responsible use of our territories, our waterways, and our resources, on which our people and our entire nation rely.
Gitga'at territory includes all marine waterways between the ports of Kitimat and Prince Rupert, and outside waters. Gitga'at have always used and continue to use our territory to fulfill our traditional and contemporary culture, economy, and community well-being. Tankers could not travel to and from these ports without passing through our territory, and that would have an immediate effect on us. Tankers travelling to and from Kitimat would pass directly in front our village of Hartley Bay, which is located on the Douglas Channel.
Gitga'at have carefully studied how oil tanker traffic and the risk of oil spills and actual oil spills impact our rights and interests. Those studies were conducted by numerous independent experts practising western science. A bigger factor was our elders, many of whom have since passed away. They have passed their wisdom and the intergenerational teachings of our ancestors to the next generations. We have concluded that tanker traffic, and the risks they introduce, would have a devastating and even irreversible impact on the environmental health of our territory and on the cultural, social, human health, and economic well-being of our people and our nation. As a result, the Gitga'at people have been steadfast and consistent in our opposition to oil tanker traffic in our territory, ever since this realization became known to us.
For us, the moratorium is long overdue. For example, 40 years ago, in 1977, the Gitga'at people blockaded the cruise ship Princess Patricia as it passed through Douglas Channel near our village of Hartley Bay. On board that vessel were industry experts intending to show how safe the transportation of their crude and their oil and their industry would be. All we wanted then and all we want now is to make sure that our voices are heard. Our chief at the time, Wahmoodmx Johnny Clifton brought people ashore and explained to them why this proposal would never work in our territory.
Gitga'at further demonstrated our resolve to protect our territory from oil tankers when Enbridge proposed the northern gateway project. Much time, effort, energy, and money was spent pursuing our objective of making sure our area was going to be looked after, not only for us but for all Canadians.
That process took 10 years, 10 years out of our lives that we should have been able to enjoy learning from our elders, learning from our hereditary system, and passing that knowledge down to our children.
Gitga'at will continue to be unwavering in our protection of our people and our territory from the risk of oil tankers. No one has been able to credibly guarantee us, and I don't think ever will, that an oil spill would be able to be cleaned up within our territory without further impacts.
Although Gitga'at support the federal moratorium on oil tankers in our territory, we have some concerns. Some concern the recent refinery proposals. Our neighbours to the south, the Heiltsuk people, had to endure a spill just last year. Our people continue to endure the effects of the Queen of the North spill upwards of 10 years ago. Also, we've had to endure the effects of the Zalinski, which sank in the lower Grenville Channel at the end of World War II.
That being said, we are encouraged that Canada, through the measures of the oceans protection plan and the tanker moratorium, is taking important steps to work with the Gitga'at and other first nations communities to find solutions that protect our coasts while allowing us to benefit from the sustainable use of our oceans.
I'll stop there.