The federal Conservative candidate in the Courtenay-Alberni riding is under fire from a Coastal First Nation.

Byron Horner was the executive producer of the Great Bear Rainforest IMAX film, which was filmed in Heiltsuk territory.

Earlier this year, the Heiltsuk Nation says it became aware that footage of the film was being used to promote Horner’s political campaign. 

The nation says this was done without its consent and “contrary to the original spirit and intent of the film, which was education and sharing so that all can appreciate and understand why protection measures are paramount for our beautiful home.”

“Under Heiltsuk law, we must stand in our truth, and address untruths regarding our homelands and waters,” Heiltsuk Nation said in a release.  “As such, we sent a letter to Mr. Horner advising we did not approve of the exploitation of images from the film for the purpose of individual political campaigns, and requesting that he cease and desist using those images.” 

In a statement, Horner said, “When the Heiltsuk Council brought their concerns to my attention a number of months ago, I voluntarily removed any digital photos from the Great Bear Rainforest and of the Spirit Bear taken during the filming from my social media feeds and my campaign literature. The Heiltsuk Council understood that my role as executive producer of the Great Bear Rainforest IMAX film is part of my lived experience and forms part of my biography.”

Heiltsuk Nation said that after their letter was sent, Horner agreed to remove all film-related images from his social media, website, and other channels related to his political campaign.

However, they say that Horner has been referencing the IMAX film in his campaign speeches and door-to-door political campaigning, including making claims that he has established good relationships with specific members of the Heiltsuk Nation. 

Heiltsuk Nation also says that Horner is still using an image from the film on his campaign website.

The Heiltsuk Nation adds that Horner’s actions are “inconsistent with the spirit of his agreement with the Heiltsuk, that any references to the film and its images are being done without their explicit consent, and that they do not have a relationship with Mr. Horner, nor do they endorse his political campaign.”

“Heiltsuk territory is a vast and beautiful territory that not even an IMAX film can capture in all its complexity,” Heiltsuk Nation said.

“The Great Bear Rainforest is a global treasure with thousands of salmon runs, millions of migratory birds, and unmatched marine and terrestrial mammals like the humpback whale, gray wolves and the elusive Spirit Bear, to name a few. It is a region we have fought hard to protect, and it should not be exploited for partisan purposes.”

Based out of Bella Bella, the Heiltsuk Nation’s territory encompasses 35,553 square kilometres of land and water on B.C.’s Central Coast, including substantial portions of the Great Bear Rainforest.