The First Nation that became known last May for turning down a $1 billion offer to site a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal on their territory has been joined by 70 indigenous leaders, scientists, environmental organizations and other groups asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reject a project whose test drilling is under way.
Since the 1970s, industry has attempted to site a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal on Lelu Island and Flora Bank, key salmon-spawning habitat off British Columbia and home to more than a dozen First Nations. With Trudeau in office, those opposing the most recent proposal, which had been moving forward under the administration of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, are speaking out in hopes of gaining an ear.
On November 9 Lax Kw’alaams Hereditary Chief Yahaan (Donald Wesley) wrote a letter to Trudeau asking that the project, the Pacific Northwest (PNW) LNG plant, be halted. Yahaan is one of dozens of people who have been camped out on Lelu Island since August, turning away geotechnical contractors working for PNW LNG, the groups noted in a statement. He’s the hereditary chief of the Gitwilgyoots, “people of the kelp,” which is part of the Tsimshian Nation, a group of nine allied tribes of Lax Kw’alaams whose members live along the lower Skeena River and on the north coast of British Columbia, the letter stated.
“PNW LNG is poised to cause irreparable damage to the second-largest wild salmon run in Canada, and potential catastrophe for the fisheries economy thousands of people depend on,” Yahaan wrote in a letter addressed to Trudeau and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna.
The 70 signatories include the elected Lax Kw’alaams Band Council, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, and leaders from Gitxsan, Gitanyow, Wet’suwe’ten, Tsimshian, Fort Nelson and Salteau First Nations, as well as renowned environmentalists David Suzuki, Wade Davis, Alexandra Morton and Barb Faggetter, the statement highlighted.
“This is the first time that such widespread and unprecedented agreement has been reached in B.C. on LNG,” said Greg Horne of the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition in the groups’ statement. “From every corner of the province, we are all in agreement that Lelu Island and Flora Banks is the worst possible spot on the north coast to site an LNG facility.”
They were also joined by the Haida Nation, which passed a resolution with broader scope “expressing opposition to British Columbia’s LNG agenda and demanding that the mass export of any fossil fuel through its territory be prohibited,” according to a statement on November 9.
“If LNG is developed on the north coast we could see large LNG tankers passing through Haida territorial waters,” the nation said. “Presently there are no adequate provincial or federal emergency response systems in place if a ship were to founder.”
“Should there be an accident our environment and way of life will experience significant damage,” said Haida Nation President Kil tlaats ‘gaa Peter Lantin, also invoking the new possibilities for nation-to-nation relationships between Indigenous Peoples and the Canadian government. “Our goal is to establish a world-class, leading-edge, regional shipping management plan. In achieving this, reconciliation between the Crown and First Nations, will also be advanced.”
Those opposing the Lelu Island facility specifically said they are not against development but rather the location. The United Fisherman and Allied Workers Union (UFAWU) and coastal conservation groups echoed the same request to Trudeau in a separate letter, sent the same day.
“Of all the thousands of miles of coastline, they chose the one location most critical for Skeena salmon,” said Des Nobels, Northern Outreach Coordinator for the T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation, and one of the union letter’s signatories. “We urge you to reject this project outright because mitigation will not be possible. The importance of this specific site is long standing common knowledge in the scientific community.”