Hereditary chiefs, elected council members and community members are refuting claims by Mayor Garry Reece that Eagle Spirit Energy has no support from Lax Kw’alaams, saying the mayor is “completely out of touch” with the membership.
A release issued on June 9 states that the project has “unanimous support from Lax Kw’alaams membership from Prince Rupert and Terrace” and that members in the community voted in favour of pursuing the project further during a series of meetings.
“In the first meeting chaired by the Mayor in Lax Kw’alaams, a vote was taken which was overwhelmingly in favour of signing a non-disclosure agreement with Eagle Spirit because community members were truly interested in the project. Additional meetings were held in Prince Rupert, Lax Kw’alaams and Vancouver with the same result. Our community members have said they want to proceed to the next stage with Eagle Spirit. They are not being asked to sign a final agreement,” read a statement from councillors Ted White, Helen Johnson, and Chris Sankey.
Three hereditary chiefs — Nees Nuganoos (Randy Dudoward), Ligi Watgwatk (Donald Alexcee), Nees Wexs (Clyde Dudoward), and Gitxoon (Alex Campbell) — say that the mayor’s recent statements don’t hold water given what they have heard from the people of Lax Kw’alaams.
“The Mayor can huff and puff to try convince the public about his power, but his sole declaration has no impact in our tribal territories. If anyone, the government, the Mayor, or whoever thinks they can make a sole declaration about our traditional territories without our members support they will find differently. We are prepared to work with elected leadership but we will not be disrespectfully pressured or talked down to like children,” said the group, with Sm’goygit Gitxoon, Laxgiit Gispaxlo’ots (Hereditary Chief Alex Campbell) saying he witnessed the support for Eagle Spirit firsthand.
“I was in the gym at Lax Kw’alaams during Eagle Spirit’s presentation on May 9. The room was filled with band members when Garry asked ‘Do you all agree with Eagle Spirit’s presentation?’. Band members clapped and many band members called out ‘yes’ in response to his question,” he said.
While details of the agreements remain unclear, the members issuing the statement say the Tsimshian would be “full partners” with “potential of business opportunities in other areas” should it be signed. “Eagle Spirit gives First Nations the choice of being a true partner in the planning of our lives as well as establishing prosperity within world-class guidelines that will protect the environment,” said Suu laxha (Brenda Wesley).
“Oil and gas is being pushed forward by the government. This is nothing new. Eagle Spirit is assisting us to self-regulate as well as self-organize in order to adapt to the changes and the pressures which are at times being pushed on us.”
The statements come just days after Reece issued a letter stating, “Lax Kw’alaams members do not support the proposed construction of a pipeline or proposed refinery by Eagle Spirit Energy in our territory for the fundamental reason that the community has not been involved in a meaningful and comprehensive dialogue regarding this project”.
Mayor Garry Reece did not immediately return a request for comment from the Northern View. Look for updates as they become available.