The proposed Pacific Northwest LNG terminal on Lelu Island continues to meet resistance from some First Nations and politicians — but not all.
Friends of Wild Salmon hosted the Salmon Nation Summit conference in Prince Rupert on Jan. 22 and 23 with the focus on how LNG development may threaten salmon in the Skeena River.
On the second day of the conference First Nations leaders, three MLAs, an MP and citizens signed the declaration for the “Permanent Protection of Lelu Island”.
The Lelu Island Declaration states: “That Lelu Island, and Flora and Agnew Banks, are hereby protected for all time, as a refuge for wild salmon and marine resources, and are to be held in trust for all future generations.”
The Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen and MLA Jennifer Rice both attended the conference and signed the declaration.
“This project isn’t going to happen. This project can’t happen,” Cullen said in the press release.
Rice spoke at the conference and presented a letter affirming her commitment, along with two other Northern MLAs, Robin Austin, MLA for Skeena and Doug Donaldson, MLA for Stikine, to protect the Skeena wild salmon.
“There’s no doubt that when a group of diverse citizens often with differing viewpoints can come together and empower each other as I witnessed this weekend, that they are unstoppable,” Rice said.
Hereditary leaders from some of the the Nine Allied Tribes of the Tsimshian Nation, and hereditary leaders of the Lax Kw’alaams, Gitxsan, Wet’suwet’en, Lake Babine, and Haisla First Nations also signed the declaration, including Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, according to the release.
However, Chief Cliff White, Gitxaala, Chief Harold Leighton, Metlakatla, Chief Don Roberts, Kitsumkalum, Chief Joe Bevans, Kitselas and Chief Arnold Clifton, Gitga’at, made clear on Monday that the declaration was made without their consultation or support.
“The signatories to the declaration did not include or represent any of the five Tsimshian elected chiefs nor was there any mandate from elected or hereditary chiefs to support the declaration.
The Tsimshian chiefs reject the declaration calling for permanent protection of their traditional territories. The chiefs view the declaration as a political action that is an attack on the rights and title interest of Tsimshian Nations,” the chiefs said in a press release.
“The chiefs are extremely disappointed that the local member of parliament and provincial NDP MLAs would choose to sign and comment on a project without any prior consultation or involvement with Tsimshian communities.”
The chief councillors also added that the summit did not present the full picture of the proposed project.
“The environmental teams of the Tsimshian Nations have been working collaboratively, through the Tsimshian Environmental Stewardship Authority (TESA), to rigorously review the science and have successfully pressed the proponent and CEAA for additional due diligence. In addition, TESA has commissioned two independent reviews to validate the science. TESA is in the process of concluding its work on the science and will be reporting out to its communities in the coming weeks,” they said.
“Tsimshian Nations will continue on their path of making decisions based on the best environmental information and the best interests of the communities they represent.”
The two-day conference had more than 300 people attend to listen to environmentalists and First Nations leaders speak about the politics and science behind possible LNG development.
The co-chair of Friends of Wild Salmon, Gerald Amos, said they planned to “tackle the notion of social licence, what should it mean and what role do communities have to projects like the Petronas one”.
He called the consultation process a broken system and hopes that Friends of the Wild Salmon are able to stop the development on Lelu Island. “It’s just the worst possible site,” he said.
Ian Gill, the founding president of Ecotrust Canada, presented on the politics of LNG development and how the government is desperate to deliver hard economic development in the province.
“I think there’s a frustration that our governments encourage foreign-owned companies, who have no responsibilities in Canada and no commitments to Canada’s future, to come in and make these grand proposals,” Gill said adding that it divides communities.
On Monday, Premier Christy Clark also pointed to the divisiveness saying those who signed the declaration were “the forces of no,” adding there is an apparent division between those “who say no to everything and those that want to find a way to get to yes.”