The Lax Kw’alaams First Nation is proceeding with a title action for Lelu Island and Flora Bank to establish existing Aboriginal title to the land, something that band says would obligate the government to seek their consent before proceeding with the Pacific NorthWest (PNW) LNG terminal development.
The band says it was opposed to test drilling that began this week and that the terminal itself would not have band support on Lelu Island.
“Our traditional law, backed by our scientific reports, has made it clear that Flora Bank cannot be touched by PNW or any other company that proposes development. This decision is backed by the community and an alternate site must be found if the project is to proceed,” said Lax Kw’alaams Mayor Garry Reece.
“We are open to development, including PNW’s project, but not the way the project is currently constituted. We have serious concerns about Flora Bank and its environmental importance. The project needs to change before its embraced by the Lax Kw’alaams members.”
As well as the location of the terminal, Reece said the band has been “extremely concerned with the apathy and indifference shown by the Government of Canada and its delegated body, the Prince Rupert Port Authority” who Reece said has completely ignored concerns about the terminal’s location. As well, Reece said the current federal and provincial environmental assessments are simply inadequate.
“We need a proper process and good science. Lax Kw’alaams requires all projects be reviewed to a standard set by our scientists and experts,” he said.
Metlakatla, meanwhile, said it “has a strong interest in any title actions concerning Lelu Island and the Skeena River estuary” and said discussions with the company are ongoing.
“Our concerns regarding the environmental impact of PNW project have not been resolved. However, we acknowledge a constructive relationship and that design modifications have been incorporated as a result of ongoing discussions,” read a statement from the band.
“As leaders we have a duty to our children and future generations to fairly and thoroughly assess the potential benefits and impacts of project development in our territory. We will continue to participate in the CEAA process and will ultimately decide whether to support this project based on our rights and titles interest.”
While noting geotechnical, environmental and geophysical studies were undertaken after consultation and engagement with First Nations including the Lax Kw’alaams Band, the Prince Rupert Port Authority declined comment on the title claim.
“The Port Authority is aware of the announcement by the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation that it intends to initiate a title claim to Lelu Island and Flora Bank,” read a statement from the organiztion.
“It is the right of the members of the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation to take this step if they so choose. It would be inappropriate for the Port Authority to comment on, or speculate, regarding a potential legal matter.”
In order to provide more information to members the band has arranged a community meeting on Sept. 30 to discuss the project and the title claim.
“It is our goal to be transparent and accountable to our people,” said Reece.
A representative from Pacific NorthWest LNG did not immediately return a request for comment from the Northern View.