Canadian Coast Guard and the Heiltsuk Nation Announce $5 million Pilot Project to Support Development of Heiltsuk Marine Response Team

News release

October 26, 2022

Bella Bella, British Columbia - Indigenous coastal communities share ties to Canada’s oceans that span generations. Through the next phase of Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan, the Government of Canada is working with First Nations to further improve how we respond to marine emergencies. Today, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Honourable Joyce Murray, and the Heiltsuk Nation announced the start of the Heiltsuk Marine Emergency Response Team pilot project to enhance marine safety on the Central Coast of British Columbia.

Through the Oceans Protection Plan, the Canadian Coast Guard is providing over $5M to immediately launch a pilot project to support the development of the Heiltsuk Marine Emergency Response Team. This team will be integrated into the federal marine preparedness and response system as a third-party responder to marine pollution incidents. The project will include engaging with community members, on-water exercises and training, procuring equipment, and developing response strategies within the Heiltsuk territory.

This is one of several collaborations between the Canadian Coast Guard and the Heiltsuk Nation.The Government of Canada and the Heiltsuk Nation continue to work together to enhance the Nation’s role in marine environmental response to provide emergency response capacity on the coast of British Columbia. Building on several years of collaborative discussions, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed in March 2021, formalizing a commitment between the Nation and the Government of Canada to enhance community spill response capacity, including development of the Heiltsuk Marine Emergency Response Team.

The Oceans Protection Plan is a Canadian success story. When Indigenous Peoples, industry, communities, academia, and government work together to protect our environment, grow our economy, and support good jobs across the country, we deliver real results. A renewed and expanded Oceans Protection Plan will keep our oceans and coasts healthy, advance reconciliation, and build a clean future for our children and grandchildren.


“Working together at all levels, the Government of Canada and Indigenous communities are continuing to improve the safety of local waters and the marine environment. I’m pleased to build on our important partnership with the Heiltsuk Nation to enhance marine safety and pollution preparedness through this initiative.”

The Honourable Joyce Murray, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

“The Canadian Coast Guard and the Heiltsuk Nation have worked together for many years to continuously improve marine safety on the West Coast. Today’s funding announcement will help further that partnership as we work to protect the environment.”

Mario Pelletier, Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard

“As stewards of our lands and waters, Heiltsuk’s vision is to be able to protect our territory from oil spills. We are excited to move forward with this important work that will help us carry out our responsibility to keep our coast safe.”

K̓áwáziɫ Marilyn Slett, Chief Councillor, Heiltsuk Nation

“This project will help us fill the gap in marine pollution response capacity on the central coast of British Columbia, and we look forward to implementing the Heiltsuk Marine Emergency Response Team.”

Wígvíɫba Wákas Harvey Humchitt, Hereditary Chief, Heiltsuk Nation

Quick facts

  • Since 2016, the Government of Canada has dedicated $3.5 billion to the Oceans Protection Plan, making it the largest investment Canada has ever made to protect its coasts and waterways.

  • The funding announced today is part of the Government of Canada’s Budget 2022 commitment to provide funding over nine years to renew Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan and expand its work into new areas.

  • Since the launch of the Oceans Protection Plan, the Canadian Coast Guard has:

    • Announced new Canadian Coast Guard stations in Victoria, Hartley Bay, Port Hardy and Tahsis, British Columbia.
    • Made Canadian Coast Guard's Regional Operations Centres, which monitor and assess marine incidents (including pollution events), operational 24/7.
    • Invested in new, modern environmental response equipment for the Canadian Coast Guard across Canada.
    • Signed the first-ever Reconciliation Framework Agreement For Bioregional Oceans Management and Protection between the Government of Canada and 14 Pacific North Coast Nations in British Columbia to better coordinate and collaborate on solutions to local ocean issues.
    • Provided $3.7 million to 16 Northern and Indigenous communities to buy search and rescue boats and equipment, improving their ability to participate as members of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary.
    • Co-launched the Coastal Nations Coast Guard Auxiliary in the territorial waters of Ahousaht and Heiltsuk First Nations.

Associated links


Kevin Lemkay
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Andrew Frank
Heiltsuk Tribal Council Communications

Stay Connected

Page details

Date modified: