MINISTER of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation John Rustad said a four day tour of the northwest that began today in Terrace won’t include the Nass valley to meet with the Nisga’a Nation as hoped because of time constraints, but that he is confident government-to-government negotiation will help resolve recent disputes over the proposed Avanti mine in Kitsault.
“We’re hoping that we will be able to resolve this issue fairly quick,” Rustad said of the recent B.C. Supreme court case filed by the Nisga’a against the BC Government for what the First Nation says was an unsatisfactory environmental assessment process for the proposed open-pit molybdenum mine on their territory.
“We actually have been working with Nisga’a around the interpretation of the treaty and how the government-to-government should interact,” Rustad said. “We are hopeful that we now have a mechanism that we can use going forward to avoid this kind of situation.”
As the only government MLA in the Northwest—elected in the Nechako Lakes riding since 2005—Rustad said he will be visiting the Terrace region two to three times a year to forge bonds with First Nations, and says he is supportive of local Kitsumkalum and Kitselas treaty negotiations:
“We’ve signed onto the agreement in principles and the First Nations have as well. The Feds are currently reviewing it and we’re hopeful they will be signing on very shortly. That will be stage four of the treaty process. We have a couple years yet to be able to get the final treaty.”
Rustad went on to say that aspects of the Kitselas and Kitsumkalum agreements could be realized sooner than that.
“To help support economic development and opportunities for the First Nations we’ve actually signed interim treaty agreements so land can be transferred and there can be opportunities they can take in advance of getting to final treaty. So our relationship with them is good and I am optimistic we will be getting to treaty once the Feds sign on,” said Rustad.
LNG development is also high on the Minister’s agenda this week, and he says he is here to explain and promote revenue sharing agreements with local First Nations as well as job training.
“The number of jobs that will be created from LNG is quite phenomenal,” Rustad said. “We don’t have enough people for those jobs but we want to make sure that those opportunities are there for our people, First Nation and non-First Nation alike.”
In terms of a timeline for the revenue sharing, Rustad said that money won’t begin to flow until construction on what are currently proposed projects gets underway.
“As soon as the pipes are ordered and the work starts, that kicks in one level of revenue sharing for those who have signed on along the pipelines,” Rustad said. “There will be other types of opportunities around the plants for construction, and when they get into operation. There are companies that are negotiating impact benefit agreements, and of course we are negotiating other types of non-treaty agreements with the various bands.”
The minister’s trip will include a visit to the Gitanyow village in Gitxsan territory as well as a meeting with Terrace city council on Wednesday, and local government in Prince Rupert and Kitimat.
The tour also includes trips to the Rio Tinto Modernization Project in Kitimat and LNG developer Petronas’s operations in Prince Rupert.
Minster of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett is on tour with Rustad.