A group of hereditary chiefs, elders and elected officials in Lax Kw’alaams have come forward to voice their support for the Eagle Spirit Energy project, which would move refined oil to Grassy Point for export to Asian markets.
And, they say, those who say all nations on the coast oppose the project are simply wrong.
“The suggestion that there is unified opposition to the Eagle Spirit oil pipeline proposal on the north coast is ridiculous … community members are not stupid and need to have access to the facts so they can judge for themselves. The last thing we need is environmental organizations dictating how we should steward the traditional territories we have already protected for the last 10,000 years,” said Elder George Bryant, with three hereditary chiefs taking issue with opposition statements made by Coastal First Nations director Art Sterritt and elder Murray Smith.
“Neither Murray or Art Sterritt’s Coastal First Nations organization speak for our tribes or community and they should stop pretending they do. We were not consulted by those groups for any real opinion. We can do our own thinking and looking after our own land,” read a statement by hereditary chiefs Cylde Dudoward, Donald Alexcee, Alex Campbell and Randy Dudoward.
The statements come following a meeting with Eagle Spirit Energy in Prince Rupert Monday and widespread media reports of community opposition after the company received support from three First Nations in the interior. Among the key reasons for support listed by those voicing their opinions is the economic impact the project could have if it is done in an environmentally safe way.
“Given its importance to the national economy we know oil is eventually coming to the B.C. north coast. We sure don’t want bitumen by rail or by Enbridge’s pipeline. We want the input into an environmental protection model that the Eagle Spirit project offers. Our community has huge unemployment problems and, once we are fully satisfied the environment is being adequately protected, we need the opportunities that are not being provided by environmental do-gooders now,” said hereditary house leader Robert Sankey.
“The huge amount of positive support for the Eagle Spirit proposal shown by our community members today reinforces previous interest in further exploring this. Of all the pipeline projects seeking to come through our territory, this project offers the highest environmental protection and the greatest benefits to our community [based on preliminary information available so far],” added councillor Chris Sankey.
The representatives also note complete opposition to bitumen being shipped through a pipeline or the use of Kitimat as an export point given the navigational challenges of the Douglas Channel.