Juvenile salmon swim in the waters near Lelu Island.

Three interior First Nations come out in opposition to Lelu Island terminal

Three interior First Nations bands have declared their opposition to the Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal planned for Lelu Island.

Three interior First Nations bands have declared their opposition to the Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal planned for Lelu Island, citing both a lack of consultation and “massive damage to salmon habitat”.

The leaders of the Gitanyow, Wet’suwet’en and Lake Babine nations all say the project simply cannot be allowed to move forward until the federal government comes to the table and takes their concerns into account.

“When B.C., the Prince Rupert Port Authority and Petronas sited a massive LNG development on the Skeena River’s most critical salmon habitat, they created the legal obligation to consult and accommodate First Nations who have an interest in Skeena salmon. We have written CEAA several times since spring 2013 to express our concerns with the project and requested bilateral consultation. The Crown has refused, stating that because of the distance between our traditional lands and the terminal it is not required,” said Glen Williams, president of the Gitanyow.

“This flawed reasoning does not uphold the honour of the Crown. Despite this we have continued to do our homework and we now have concrete scientific evidence that shows our salmon rely on these area and anything they do in these sensitive ecosystems need to be vetted through our Chiefs. The lack of consultation is unacceptable, industry and government have completely ignored our constitutionally protected rights and we will not stand for it.”

Should the government come to the table, the nations say there is just no way they would allow it to be located at the mouth of the Skeena River due to potential impacts to salmon and are calling on the provincial and federal government to withdraw the project from the Lelu Island “immediately”.

“If the federal and provincial governments cannot protect our interests, and choose to work more closely with foreign-owned multinational energy companies than their own citizens, then we will be forced to represent ourselves abroad and tell Petronas the truth about their prospects,” said Chief Na’Moks of the Wet’suwet’en Tsayu Clan.

“It’s time to go beyond mouthing platitudes about new relationships and apologizing for past wrongs. The entire system of how major industrial development on our lands is proposed, and approved, is broken. It doesn’t work for anyone. It is expensive, it creates more uncertainty and most often further erodes Canada’s reputation as a civil society, or a desirable place to do business. On every level it is failing,” added Wilf Adam, Oputt, Chief of the Lake Babine Nation.

However, Pacific NorthWest LNG said it has undertaken extensive consultation as it moves ahead with its project.

“For the past two years, we have been in active consultation with First Nations that were identified by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia as having levels of claim to the lands that we are proposing to construct our facility. Our discussions and ensuing feedback have resulted in numerous project mitigations – including the design and construction of a suspension bridge to minimize marine infrastructure, avoiding salmon habitat entirely – with the intention to ensure that the Skeena estuary remains as productive as it is today,” said senior corporate affairs advisor Spencer Sproule.

“Our facility represents a generational opportunity for area First Nations in regard to long-term careers, business opportunities and skills training.”