Lax Kw’alaams halts work on northwest transmission lines

A First Nations dispute over traditional territory has forced work on the Northwest Transmission lines outside of Terrace to be stopped, at least temporarily. Over the weekend, a geo-technical drill crew from BC Hydro were working on the transmission line project at a site located off of highway 16 near Terrace, when a group of “cultural monitors” from the Lax Kw'alaams First Nation arrived and told the crew they were not allowed to work there.

A First Nations dispute over traditional territory has forced work on the Northwest Transmission lines outside of Terrace to be stopped, at least temporarily. Over the weekend, a geo-technical drill crew from BC Hydro were working on the transmission line project at a site located off of highway 16 near Terrace, when a group of “cultural monitors” from the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation arrived and told the crew they were not allowed to work there.

“They were setting up at the site when a group of men from Lax Kw’alaams drove up and started handing out fliers saying that they must work. So the crew followed our protocol and immediately left . . . . In our view the site that we were setting up on was Kitsumkalum territory,” explains BC Hydro’s Executive VP of the Northwest Transmission Line project, Greg Reimer.

The transmission line project is expected to go through the traditional territory of eight different First Nations groups. While BC Hydro has negotiated agreements for the use of the land with five of those groups including the  Kitsumkalum First Nation, they don’t have one with Lax Kw’alaams. It was  because of this that BC Hydro’s workers were told to leave by Lax Kw’alaams’ small force of “cultural monitors” who make sure that the First Nations territorial rights are being enforced.

“Our cultural monitors explained to them that we have no agreement in place, and asked them to leave, and that’s what happened,” says Lax Kw’alaams band councillor, Bob Moraes.

But according to Reimer, even though the workers did leave when asked, BC Hydro’s position is that the site is the territory of  Kitsumkalum and that work will begin there again soon under that assumption.

Moraes admits that the because Lax Kw’alaams’ and Kitsumkalum’s territories are right next to each other, it causes some overlap and the distinctions on who has the right to what piece of  land can often be a matter of debate. He is trying to resolve the issue by drawing up a map that would clearly define his nation’s territory, which he believes will show that the construction site is inside Lax Kw’alaams’ territory in an area that is not also claimed by Kitsumkalum.

Lax Kw’alaams is already in a territory dispute with Kitkatla over Watson Island, and Moraes says they are not trying to start another one.

“There would be no purpose for us to go into somebody else’s territory and trying to cause problems. We’ve got an area that we’re concerned about enough that we will use some of our time to make sure what’s going on there is proper,” says Moraes.

Kitsumkalum’s band manager and former chief councillor, Steve Roberts, says that his First Nation  not only claims the site in question as their territory, but went further than that. According to Roberts, Lax Kw’alaams is merely the product of the Indian Act, and does not (or at least, should not) have any traditional territory rights at all.

“It’s Kitsumkalum’s strong belief that Lax Kw’alaams has no more aboriginal rights and title than the white man who drafted the letter and who purports to exercise right and title on behalf of Lax Kw’alaams,” says Roberts.

“Lax Kw’alaams is just a place name, much like how Prince Rupert is a place name . . . it’s not a tribe, it has no right and title.”

Both BC Hydro and Lax Kw’alaams recognize that the lack of an agreement between them is the central problem behind this incident but the two sides seem far apart on negotiating one. They can’t even agree on whether or not they’re actually negotiating. Remier from BC Hydro refuses to go into specifics, but says that negotiation on an agreement is underway.

“We have been in negotiations for some time, we share the goal of reaching an agreement that is fair and meaningful for them, for us and the rate-payers of BC. So we’re committed to working out an agreement, which I think will be the solution to this issue” says Reimer.

That’s not how Lax Kw’alaams sees it. According to Moraes who is the First Nation’s lead negotiator on the Nortwest Transmission Line agreement, the whole process has stalled since the last  meeting between the two sides a month ago. The band councillor says that the compensation package BC Hydro offered the First Nation for being able to impinge on their  territory rights was completely inadequate, and accuses BC Hydro of not being serious about finding an acceptable agreement.

“We don’t like the cookie-cutter approach when they say” this is what we’ve got, take it or leave it,” says Moraes.

Despite Moraes willingness to continue negotiations, Lax Kw’alaams has been opposed to the Northwest Transmission Line project quite some time, and that opposition was reflected in the comments from their Chief councillor Gary Reece on the incident.

“Lax Kw’alaams has been extremely frustrated by the lack of respect shown by Hydro to our aboriginal rights and title interests and they have absolutely refused to negotiate in good faith to ensure our interests and concerns for the NTL are built into their plans,” says Reece.

“No Agreement with Hydro, no Northwest Transmission Lines on our traditional territory.”

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

BC CDC mapping for the week ending April 4, shows a sharp decrease in COVID-19 cases to 27 in Prince Rupert down 45 from the week prior. (Image: BCCDC)
Sharp decline in Prince Rupert COVID-19 cases

Prince Rupert lab-confirmed cases are down 62.5 per cent in one week

Blair Mirau, Gitmaxmak’ay Nisga’a Society CEO, is seen in a hydroponic greenhouse the society purchased in 2020 to promote food stability and local supply. (Photo: supplied)
Three P.R. organizations partner to develop food distribution network

$167,000 grant awarded to GSN, PRDCC and Ecotrust Canada to strengthen food supply chains

Food security and local production were topics at the April 12 public hearing to discuss new zoning bylaws and new OCP bylaws in Prince Rupert. A shipping container-style hydroponic growing unit in Whitehorse on July 26, 2020 is similar to one purchased by the Gitmaxmak’ay Nisga’a Society for local food production. (Photo: Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Food security and local production were growing concerns at city held public hearing

No provision in new zoning bylaws and new OCP for urban agriculture zones in Prince Rupert

Members of Prince Rupert Rotary Club gave back to their community on April 15 by providing a facelift to the city's gateway at McClymont Park. (Photo: K-J Millar)
Acts of Kindness Day being honoured in Prince Rupert

Prince Rupert Rotary Club is encouraging acts of kindness all week long

A ball balances on the rim. New basketball court surfaces and nets will be installed as part of the McBride Street Multi-sport Court Redevelopment project to which Pembina donated $20,000. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Nothing but net for $20,000 Pembina donation

McBride Street multi-sport court redevelopment project in the planning

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

Families of two of three workers killed in a train derailment near Field, B.C., in 2019 have filed lawsuits accusing Canadian Pacific of gross negligence. The derailment sent 99 grain cars and two locomotives off the tracks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Families of workers killed in Field train derailment allege negligence in lawsuit

Lawsuits allege the workers weren’t provided a safe work environment

(New Westminster Police)
4 youth arrested after 30-person brawl in New Westminster leaves 1 seriously injured

Police are looking for witnesses who saw the incident take place

South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell, who works with the DFO, tows a grey whale out of Semiahmoo Bay Sunday. (Contributed photo)
Dead whale floating near White Rock towed to shore for necropsy

Animal has been dead since at least April 15

Sunday’s storm rocked one of the ferries crossing Kootenay Lake. Photo: Dirk Jonker
VIDEO: Storm makes for wild ferry ride across Kootenay Lake

The video was captured by ferry employee Dirk Jonker

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Toddler marks youngest British Columbian to die related to COVID-19

Child one of eight people to die from virus this weekend

Chakalaka Bar & Grill remains open in defiance of orders from Island Health to close. (Cole Schisler photo)
B.C. health authority seeks injunction against restaurant defying COVID-19 orders

Chakalaka Bar and Grill plans to continue serving customers without public health compliance

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is a independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. to open up AstraZeneca vaccines for all people 40+, set up clinics in hot spots

A total of 13 neighbourhoods and communities will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine

Most Read