"We're here to stay. We'll do anything that we need to, to protect our land and sea."
- Hieltsuk Chief Councilor Marilyn Slett
B.C.'s unelected, unelectable and outgoing premier, Christie Clark, may have bitumen dollar signs in her eyes but the province's First Nations, especially coastal bands, see the Northern Gateway much differently. To them the bitumen pipeline/supertanker project cannot be allowed to happen.
"The Heiltsuk will never support this pipeline." Standing on the Bella Bella breakwater overlooking Lama Passage, Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett is calm but emphatic. No amount of reassurance or compensation, Slett says, will change her community's stance on the proposed Northern Gateway project.
People in this community of 1,500 say they have relied on the surrounding ocean passages since time before memory. Like many places in B.C., the coastal ecosystem provides Bella Bella with food, transportation, and jobs in fishing and tourism -- a way of life residents fear would be wiped out in an instant by a tanker spill.