The Heiltsuk Nation says it applauds the federal government for introducing legislation that will ban most oil tankers from operating along British Columbia’s north coast.

Transportation Minister Marc Garneau introduced the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act on Friday in the House of Commons.

The act will ban tankers from carrying crude oil and persistent oils from stopping, loading or unloading at any ports or marine installations from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to the B.C.-Alaska border, including Haida Gwaii. Penalties for defying the ban are as high as $5 million.

In a news release, the Heiltsuk Nation says it’s been leading the fight to ban tankers and is pleased to see progress.

“We will be reviewing the details of the legislation, and we anticipate that this law will bolster our work to protect the lands and waters of our territory,” stated Heiltsuk Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett.

In October, the Nathan E. Stewart sank west of Bella Bella spilling more than 100,000 litres of diesel and other contaminants.

“The sinking of the Nathan E. Stewart in Heiltsuk waters this past October taught us many lessons, including how essential it is to improve marine safety on this coast,” Slett said. “It will be an important milestone when Parliament approves a tanker moratorium.”

Last fall, the federal government revealed its Oceans Protection Plan, dedicating $1.5 billion to a “marine leading marine safety system” that will provide new economic and partnership opportunities.

“We look forward to building off the positive momentum of a tanker moratorium, and continuing to work with the federal government to ensure that the Oceans Protection Plan delivers tangible results for our communities and for this coast,” said Slett. 

With files from The Canadian Press