ENBRIDGE regards a controversial development deal it signed with the Gitxsan Treaty Society last year as alive and well.
The deal, to provide the Gitxsan an equity position in the company’s $5.5 billion Northern Gateway pipeline plan, led to the temporary suspension of the Gitxsan chief who negotiated the deal and the ongoing blockade of the treaty society’s offices by Gitxsan who opposed it.
“We feel we certainly have an agreement,” said Enbridge official Paul Stanway in describing discussions it has subsequently had with Gitxsan officials.
Stanway said the deal followed a protocol arrangement signed with Gitxsan chiefs several years ago.
“We are confident we were negotiating with the right people,” he said of discussions with treaty society chief land claims negotiator Elmer Derrick and other society officials.
The deal calls for the Gitxsan to be able to borrow money through Enbridge to buy into the 10 per cent block of Northern Gateway the company is making available for aboriginal ownership.
Projections placed the value of the deal to the Gitxsan at $7 million over 20 years even though the pipeline route does not directly go through traditional Gitxsan territory.
Another part of the deal, regarded by Derrick as equally important, was to have Enbridge explore various ways to generate power on traditional Gitxsan territory.
“That’s not just with the Gitxsan,” said Stanway of such discussions. “One thing we’ve tried to stress is that we are a power transportation company and we do a lot of those things in different parts of the world.”
Derrick, for example, has been interested in developing run-of-river hydroelectric projects with Enbridge, saying they provide an opportunity to generate revenues and jobs for Gitxsan people.
Stanway said power generation possibilities exist in many places in the region.
“When you look at coastal communities, a lot of them have power generated by diesel fuel that’s barged in. That’s not the optimal way to do things in the 21st century,” he said.
Enbridge had set a deadline of May 31 for interested First Nations along the Northern Gateway route to take up its offer of equity participation.
Leading into the deadline, Stanway said it had signed up approximately 40 per cent of the approximately 44 First Nations along the route.
“It’s pretty evenly split. There’s good representation from both provinces,” he said.
Under the conditions of the agreements, there’s no immediate requirement for the First Nations to identify themselves but that will happen as the overall Northern Gateway ownership takes shape, Stanway continued.
He said it may take a couple of weeks past the May 31 deadline for the release of the final number of participating First Nations.
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While Enbridge may feel it has a deal with the Gitxsan, a press release indicates otherwise.
The Jan. 19 release regarding a Jan. 17 meeting of Gitxsan chiefs and issued over the name of Gitxsan Treaty Society official Beverly Clifton Percival indicated that 78 per cent of them voted to withdraw from the Enbridge agreement.
“Much more information is required from Enbridge to inform the chiefs on the agreement and the project and how they affect Gitxsan interests,” the release stated.
The release also indicated the chiefs voted to have the blockade of the treaty society’s offices removed.
That blockade remains up and efforts by the society to have a BC Supreme Court order enforced have failed so far. Calls last week to the treaty office for additional comment were not returned.