Haida vow support for Fort Nelson First Nation

Sharleen Gale, Chief of the Fort Nelson First Nation (FNFN), visited Haida Gwaii to share FNFN's experience about the natural gas industry.

Sharleen Gale, Chief of the Fort Nelson First Nation (FNFN), recently visited Haida Gwaii to share FNFN’s experience and concerns about the natural gas industry that is being promoted to revive B.C.’s economy under its LNG Strategy.

FNFN is a Treaty 8 nation in northeast B.C. that has been experiencing an unprecedented increase in natural gas exploration, drilling and fracking in their territory in recent years. As LNG terminals are being planned in Kitimat and the Prince Rupert area, the industry proposes a 600 per cent increase in shale gas extraction in Fort Nelson territory, which would mean a dramatic increase in tanker traffic. This would also mean a surge in the dumping of ballast waters into Haida territorial waters.

In response to B.C.’s LNG Strategy, the Council of the Haida Nation (CHN) has been working with the Coastal First Nations to examine the potential cumulative impacts of LNG activities affecting the coastal zone of B.C.

While committed in opposition to oil tankers, the Haida Nation has opted not to take a formal position or consider any compensation for LNG without ensuring that the interests of the people at the source of the LNG are taken care of, and in this spirit the Haida Nation has offered political support to the people of Treaty 8.

President Peter Lantin and vice-president Trevor Russ have since made two visits to northeastern B.C.

“It would be irresponsible for us to take a position without understanding the effects on the people most affected,” said Lantin.

Last week, Chief Gale brought FNFN’s story to the CHN as well as to the public in sessions held in Massett and Skidegate.

“Their story is of a people and landscape being overrun by natural gas exploration and extraction and less-than honourable dealings from the provincial government,” said Russ.

Conventional oil and gas has been extracted from Treaty 8 territories in B.C. for many years and FNFN has agreements with B.C. regarding oil and gas activity. FNFN people work in the oil and gas industry and there are economic benefits that come with the industry. The advent of unconventional shale gas, however, threatens to increase the pace and scale of the industry to unacceptable levels.

Chief Gale stated that while much of the lands have already been disturbed, her people still use and rely on the lands that remain for their cultural and spiritual well-being. If left unchecked, there could be no land available for the traditional and natural life in a few years.

“It is our responsibility to look after our lands and waters,” said Chief Gale.

“We know that there is no government or industry who cares the way we care.”

Chief Gale closed by advising that the FNFN story is not simply an indigenous peoples’ issue, it is an issue that all people have to be aware of.