The federal court case over whether the Lax Kw’alaams band or tribe represents Lelu Island has been dismissed by the judge based on the applicant’s lack of standing to represent the Gitwilgyoots Tribe.
In the case between Donald Wesley, also known as Yahaan, of Gitwilgyoots versus Lax Kw’alaams Band and the Crown, Justice Robert Barnes found that “Yahaan failed to produce evidence of community support, but what evidence there is suggests that he is opposed by a substantial number of Gitwilgyoots members,” as stated in the decision on July 26.
Lelu Island and Flora Bank came into question following Petronas’ interest in building the $36-billion Pacific NorthWest LNG liquefied natural gas project for the area. Lax Kw’alaams Band gave support for the project in March 2016, and the federal government approved the project in September.
However, Wesley argued that the federal government did not properly consult with him as a representative of the Gitwilgyoots, one of the nine tribes of the Coast Tsimshian Nation, and he filed for a judicial review challenging the environmental assessment and decision making process that lead to the approval of the Petronas LNG project.
But following the hearings in early June, Justice Barnes found that Wesley is not “an appropriate person to act in a representative capacity” for several reasons, including that he failed to prove both his leadership claim and that he was authorized by members to launch the court proceeding on their behalf.
In his decision, Justice Barnes refers to the protest camp Wesley started on Lelu Island in August 2015 to challenge the LNG project.
“His very late intervention and his occupation of Lelu Island are both obvious attempts to frustrate the will of the majority of the Coast Tsimshian people who are satisfied with the resulting accommodations and benefits,” Barnes stated in the decision. In February 2017, Mayor John Helin signed a $98 million LNG benefits agreement for the community.
“Yahaan has not shown that he has the capacity to carry these proceedings forward or to conduct any meaningful consultation with the Crown should he prevail in the underlying application,” Barnes stated.
The case was dismissed a day after the Petronas cancelled its LNG project Lelu Island citing market conditions.