Eagle Spirit Energy, the company planning to move refined oil products across northern B.C. for export from Grassy Point, says it has the support of more than 30 First Nations spanning from Alberta to the coast.
An event held in Vancouver included several First Nations who supported the idea of partnering with Eagle Spirit on the project, including the Grand Chief of the Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta, Chief Donny Van Somer of the Kwadacha First Nation in Prince George and Gitxsan hereditary leader Art Mathews, who said the refined oil pipeline was preferred to possible oil-by-rail.
“How are we leading our people if bitumen is being shipped through our communities by rail. The railway cuts our community in half and we do not want the danger that represents to our people,” said Mathews.
“Every week there is news of another derailment—even if a derailment does not occur in our community it endangers the Skeena River or could cause a massive forest fire.”
As well as representatives form the interior, Eagle Spirit noted a large contingent of members from Lax Kw’alaams were in attendance. Several members of the band had previously endorsed the project, with more coming forward to speak at Tuesday’s event to promote the opportunities the project presents.
“We like the fact that the Eagle Spirit project put the environment first. Many of our elders are in need and we want our legacy to our children to offer something more that gives them opportunities,” said elder representative Jack White.
“There are no opportunities for young people in our community. We want a better way of life with real jobs and business prospects so we too can offer our future kids more hope,” said youth representative Corey Wesley.
Eagle Spirit Energy president Calvin Helin noted the proposal came following three years of discussions and consultations with First Nations, but said there is still much work to be done.
“The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding represents a significant milestone for the project but we realize it is really a first step,” he said.
“Much more community work has to be done and we are very grateful for powerful and kind support that First Nations have shown for our project to date.”
This comes after the Coastal First Nations issued a press release earlier this year stating the Eagle Spirit Energy proposal did not have any support from First Nations communities along the coast of B.C. and that Lax Kw’alaams Mayor Garry Reece “made it clear in conversations that his community does not support oil exports through its traditional territory”.
“There isn’t a single First Nation on the coast of B.C. that supports oil exports,” stated Art Sterritt, Coastal First Nations executive director.