The Province of British Columbia and the Lax Kw’alaams Band reached multiple agreements in Feb. 2017 to ensure benefits accrue for First Nations as a result of the construction and operation of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export industry in the Prince Rupert area. (B.C. government photo)

Two local First Nations lost out when Pacific NorthWest LNG was cancelled

But money in trust fund remains

When Pacific NorthWest LNG cancelled its Lelu Island project in July 2017, both the Lax Kw’alaams and the Metlakatla lost out on significant provincial land transfers.

The Lax Kw’alaams stood to gain just under 1,800 hectares from 13 parcels, the largest ones being on Digby Island, Ridley Island, at Port Simpson and what’s called the Shwatlans parcel on the mainland across the water from the east side of Kaien Island.

Transfers would have happened in stages had construction of Pacific NorthWest LNG started.

There was a provision, at signing, for the Lax Kw’alaams to take possession of one of the smaller parcels called the Ridley Island Road Quarry amounting to 37 hectares.

The Metlakatla Pacific NorthWest LNG agreement called for the provincial government to transfer four parcels amounting to just over 1,000 hectares. The largest, 772 hectares, was on North Digby.

There was a provision, at signing, for Metlakatla to take possession of two of those parcels, 10 hectares on the Wolf Creek Road and 164 hectares on South Digby.

Those transfers are in process, said the provincial government in a provided statement.

The Lax Kw’alaams agreement also called for the province to provide $22 million to rest in a law firm’s trust fund accounts.

Had Pacific NorthWest LNG announced its project was proceeding, $7 million, plus interest, would then have been released to the Lax Kw’alaams with the remaining $15 million, plus interest, released once construction started.

With Pacific NorthWest LNG shelved, the money was to be returned to the province.

Yet, in a provided statement, the province says it has “exercised an option to extend the agreement, to allow the money to remain in trust with the law firm while other opportunities in support of reconciliation with Lax Kw’alaams are explored with the nation.”

Other portions of the agreement have the Lax Kw’alaams acknowledging the province provided $3 million for “community engagement and consultation purposes” and that the province “committed to upgrade the Tuck Inlet Road at an approximate cost of $20 million in order to provide Lax Kw’alaams with a direct benefit associated with potential LNG development” around Prince Rupert. That work has already taken place.

And had Pacific NorthWest LNG gone ahead, the province committed itself to “identify and budget the sum of $50 million to be used for the Port Simpson Road Connector Project or other transportation infrastructure ….”

The Metlakatla were also in line for cash payments — including $5 million upon signing of their agreement and a further $17.5 million toward the construction of a seniors facility and $3.5 million for the First Nation”s shellfish aquaculture businesss.

But a further cash injection of $20 million did not take place because of the cancellation of the Pacific NorthWest LNG project.

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