The elected chief of Wei Wai Kum First Nation is speaking out about leaked surveillance footage that allegedly shows a crew preparing to scuttle the Northern King, a former fishing boat.
The video, which has circulated widely on social media in recent weeks, shows an excavator loading a pile of gravel or similar material onto a docked boat at night, before another vessel guides it away from the berth.
Chief Chris Roberts said in a news release that Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) is investigating allegations that the Northern King was sunk intentionally and without a permit, adding that We Wai Kum “has committed to cooperating in this investigative process.”
Roberts slammed the leaker of the surveillance video, saying the Wei Wai Kum band is trying to determine who released the footage.
“The Band does not sanction the video that has surfaced online; it is unauthorized use of video surveillance footage that is property of (Wei Wai Kum First Nation),” Roberts said. He added that the band is “taking steps to determine responsibility for how this sensitive information was leaked.”
Several people are named in text added to the seven-minute video. Also named is the excavation company.
Black Press has reached out to the people named in the video, but none immediately replied to questions about the allegations on Monday. The identity of the people shown in the footage hasn’t been confirmed independently by Black Press.
The video also indicates that the Northern King is hauled away by a vessel named in the video, but the identity of the vessels shown in the footage hasn’t been confirmed.
Asked about the alleged deliberate sinking of the Northern King, the federal environment ministry confirmed that an investigation is underway into potential violations of the Environmental Protection Act.
“Departmental enforcement officers are currently investigating this matter regarding potential violations to the Act,” said Veronica Petro, a ministry spokesperson. “As the investigation is ongoing, ECCC cannot provide further information at this time.”
A time stamp on the video appears to indicate that it was captured on the evening of Feb. 1, 2017. The vessel sank in a Campbell River harbour shortly before that date, and was later refloated and stripped, according to the Coast Guard.
Various pollutants were removed from the Northern King after the Coast Guard received a report of the vessel sinking in Discovery Harbour Marina on Jan. 13, 2017, according to Michelle Imbeau, a Coast Guard spokesperson.
She said in an email that pumps were used to refloat the vessel and that on Feb. 1, the Coast Guard “reported that it was notified that all pollutants were removed from the vessel.” Those pollutants included diesel, hydraulic fluid and the main engines of the boat.
“Removing of pollutants is one mitigation measure that can be done to ensure a vessel that is at risk of sinking does not pollute the marine environment if indeed it does sink,” she said, adding that the Coast Guard has no further information about the current status of the vessel.
Asked to identify the owner of the vessel, she said the Coast Guard doesn’t provide the names of owners for privacy reasons. The Coast Guard’s reports about the Northern King don’t note the owner’s name, she added.
The Northern King was a 98-tonne wooden fishing vessel that was first registered in 1945, with Vancouver as the port of registry, according to Sau Sau Liu, a spokesperson for Transport Canada. As of March 2008, the vessel was no longer registered in Canada, she said.