A MEMBER of the Tahltan Central Council has resigned, saying he can’t support the deal it struck with BC Hydro connected to the Northwest Transmission Line (NTL).
The deal, ratified by Tahltan members last week, does not provide the Tahltan with enough influence over economic development that will occur as a result of the power line, says Curtis Rattray.
“After the construction of the NTL the Tahltan Nation will lose any negotiating leverage to negotiate any accommodation of the infringement the projects has on Tahltan rights and title and our ability to address the cumulative social and cultural impacts will also be diminished,” said Rattray in an open letter dated April 12.
Rattray had been one of 10 people representing the 10 main Tahltan families on the council which represents the interests of Tahltan on their traditional territory.
Approximately 70 kilometres of the transmission line will run through Tahltan territory and it will end at Bob Quinn, also in Tahltan territory, setting the stage for mining developments in Tahltan territory.
Speaking after the release of the letter, Rattray said the provincial government could claim it did consult and accommodate Tahltan interests through the agreement with BC Hydro because it is a provincial creation.
“That way they could say they did not have to do anything else later on with revenue sharing. They would have got what they wanted already,” he said of the provincial government.
The agreement ratified by Tahltan voters consists of two parts – money, employment and business opportunities arising from the construction of the power line and an agreement for the Tahltan to have a decision-making role and share in taxation revenues flowing from projects such as mines that would result because of the line.
Rattray also questioned the ability of privately-owned Tahltan companies, through the BC Hydro agreement, to receive contracts for work on the power line or on other projects in addition to the Tahltan Nation-owned Tahltan Nation Development Corporation.
Traditionally work involving Tahltan has flowed through the Tahltan Nation Development Corporation, meaning that any profits flow back to Tahltan people, he said.
“If these other businesses are privately-owned by Tahltan people, they don’t have to share the profits. It’s not that I’m against competition but this does do away with the value of sharing and that is a Tahltan value,” said Rattray.
Rattray said the BC Hydro agreement came out of a political environment in which not enough Tahltan people participate and those who do are more interested in personal gain.
He called the agreement the final straw leading to his decision to resign.
“It’s the end result. Good people are not getting involved. There’s so much bullying and intimidation going on in our politics,” said Rattray.
He did say the lack of political participation by members of the public isn’t just a Tahltan problem.
Tahltan Central Council chair Annita McPhee said Rattray is free to make his own choice about staying on the council or not.
“All we can do is put the information out there and in a democratic process, people have every right to have a say and to have a vote,” she said.
“If you have a concern, it’s good you exercise your voice.
“I support the agreement. The council worked really, really hard to get the information out there,” McPhee said.
Note: THE TAHLTAN Central Council has refined a voting number connected to the ratification of the Northwest Transmission Line. Earlier statements that 2,800 Tahltan were eligible to vote have now been changed to 1,700 people who actually registered to vote. And of that 1,700 figure, 773 did vote, representing a turn out of 45 per cent. The agreement was ratified with 634 Tahltan in favour and 136 opposed. There were two spoiled ballots and one rejected ballot.