04/18/2015 07:52 EDT | Updated 07/06/2015 05:59 EDT

Vancouver oil spill: Squamish Nation demands 'priority' role in future response

The Squamish Nation says it should have be notified much earlier after the bunker fuel spill in English Bay on April 8 and is now demanding that the nation play a "priority-one role" in any oil spill response regime.

Chief Ian Campbell says it took 17 hours for the nation to be notified of the spill in English Bay.

"To us that's unacceptable" he said. "Our membership deserves better than that. Aboriginal communities deserve better than that. This is our home."

It's the latest call for better communication between federal agencies and local governments when it comes to environmental accidents and disasters.

'We insist on being called first'

"We insist on being called first," said Chief Campbell, "on the same priority list as the City of Vancouver and provincial government."

In a statement issued Saturday, the Squamish Nation said it is determined to protect valuable fisheries, shellfish and other marine resources within its territory, which include Vancouver Harbour, English Bay and the beaches of North and West Vancouver as well as Howe Sound.

"The marine waters of our traditional territory continue to be an important food source for our nation and we demand that they receive the utmost protection," said Campbell.

It is still advising members not to eat any fish or crab caught in these areas until further testing is conducted.
"Canada announced...a new world class tanker safety system including better spill response, and a commitment to build marine safety capacity in Aboriginal communities," said Campbell. "But the recent English Bay bunker spill shows the federal government has a long way to go before it meets those commitments."

Campbell is highly critical of the federal response to the English Bay spill calling it "inept and sluggish." He says it also demonstrates why the Squamish Nation is opposing Kinder Morgan's proposal to twin its existing Trans Mountain pipeline.

Federal Minister of Industry James Moore described the response to the oil spill as a "job well done."

Campbell says the Squamish Nation is developing a comprehensive marine plan to specifically protect fisheries and other sensitive habitats.