KITSUMKALUM First Nation member and CFNR radio sales manager Ron Bartlett told city council at the regular meeting last night that Kitsumkalum and all aboriginal groups hold an important place in negotiations surrounding the proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals in the area.
Bartlett had attended the First Nations Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) Summit October 9-10 in Prince George, and said that it showed the beginning of a strong unified voice of First Nations who are at the front lines of negotiations that will affect how major projects roll out.
“First Nations are really the ones right now that are leading the process in consulting,” said Bartlett.
The Prince George summit brought together First Nations from upstream areas, where the extraction of natural gas is happening with other groups who inhabit midstream locations like Terrace, and downstream locations such as Prince Rupert and Kitimat where the gas will be cooled and then shipped to Asia.
Bartlett said that the ambassador of Japan held a special in-camera meeting with First Nations chiefs and administration at the summit and that both the federal and provincial ministers of the environment attended, which underlined the importance of getting First Nations on the same page with regards to development.
Bartlett said 26 out of 40 First Nations signed an agreement to work together in support of proposed LNG projects and that the summit allowed First Nations to voice concerns unique to their area while establishing a shared set of concerns.
In the upstream communities around Fort Nelson, Bartlett said First Nations have had to deal with the contamination of drinking water from extraction and the fragmentation of trapping areas, while in downstream locations salmon the Kitsumkalum and other bands rely on for industry and sustenance will be greatly affected by development on the coast.
“The decisions are made from up high. The First Nations are some of the ones that can hold their feet to the fire to make sure there is the least environmental impact, and that they create the best economy for the local folk and keep the most benefit staying here,” said Bartlett
“We never lived here in the winter,” Bartlett said of the Kitsumkalum people's relationship to the Terrace area. “We migrated down to the coast in the winter. Where the LNG terminal is being proposed in Port Edward is Kitsumkalum territory. Because of that we are being included in the consultation process for the coast.”
“Our people are commercial fishermen, and they live with the food source of salmon, so food security is a big issue for us.”
Bartlett said the overall message of the summit in Prince George was “Don't get off the bus, you will get run over.”
By supporting the plans, First Nations “get an opportunity to have some control of the process, work with them, get a better deal.”
Bartlett added that some First Nations at the summit were dead set against LNG development and are willing to hold out until it becomes “an OPEC issue”, a scenario which Bartlett said “we don't even want to go there.”
Councillor Marylin Davies said that Terrace should listen to what the First Nations are doing in these ongoing negotiations to ensure sure common goals are sought.
“It's very important that we are aware of what each others' goals are,” said Davies.
“I think we have a very good working relationship with Kitusmkalum,” she added.
Mayor David Pernarowski praised Bartlett for an effective presentation and said the summit in Prince George was important.