The provincial government views the multiple benefits agreements for Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams as a win for both the LNG industry and First Nations reconciliation.
In conversation with John Rustad, the minister of Aboriginal relations and reconciliation, on Feb. 16, the day following the landmark deal, he explained that even if the Pacific NorthWest LNG project doesn’t follow through with a final investment decision (FID) some land will still be transferred to First Nations.
There are three parcels of land that will transfer right way, one will be the 1.64 sq.km section of south Kaien Island to Metlakatla.
“If an FID doesn’t come, that land would convert over and be part of an overall long-term reconciliation likely through treaty. We’re in advanced treaty talks with Metlakatla,” Rustad said over the phone.
The Metlakatla Development Corporation began exploring south Kaien Island for a temporary access road to Ridley Island last year. The corporation submitted a management plan in Jan. 2016 to investigate un-surveyed provincial crown land that has been identified as an area for potential port expansion.
During the treaty and LNG discussions, Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams put forward a list of lands they were interested in “so through negotiations we added and subtracted and ultimately landed on the package of land that is on the table,” Rustad said.
Now that the agreements have been signed, there are two other parcels of land to be transferred to both Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams, including the 0.6 sq.km parcel of Wampler Way.
“The vast majority of the land, however, will not transfer unless we get a FID and then it transfers through a series. Some will transfer on FID and some land that transfers on construction dates,” Rustad said.
The multiple agreements for both Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams covers all major LNG projects in the Prince Rupert area — not only Pacific NorthWest LNG, which is the only project that has received all necessary approvals from the federal and provincial governments.
“They still have a right and expectation to negotiate an impact benefit agreement with the companies but as a province we have accommodated them for the LNG projects,” he said.
Negotiations have been four years in the making. Rustad said that Metlakatla is advanced with its treaty discussions but Lax Kw’alaams is not quite in the same place.
However, when asked if the Lax Kw’alaams community was on board with the benefits agreements Rustad said the band council had worked closely with hereditary chiefs, who provided a letter of support for the project and the agreements.
The Lax Kw’alaams band council also held a community vote and the majority of votes supported continuing the discussion on the LNG industry with the province.
Despite the benefits agreements, support for the LNG industry is not ubiquitous as exhibited during the All Native Basketball Tournament in Prince Rupert.
On Feb. 16 several boxes full of pink “No LNG” shirts were handed out in front of a demonstration organized by some basketball players and indigenous people who are concerned about the impacts the industry will have on the environment.
Basketball players and spectators at the All Native Basketball Tournament in Prince Rupert handed out pink No LNG T-shirts on Feb. 16 outside the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre. SHANNON LOUGH/THE NORTHERN VIEWSHANNON LOUGH/THE NORTHERN VIEW
To view maps of the land being transferred and the details of the agreements: