The LNG industry represents a unique opportunity for economic development among Indigenous people, said an association of First Nations.
“We have the opportunity to re-instil our economy of our past…and bring it into a modern context,” said Chief Councillor Crystal Smith of the Haisla Nation, in a Dec. 19 press release from the First Nations LNG Alliance.
“It is imperative that we become united, united as Indigenous communities for the benefit of our people.”
Smith, who is also director of the First Nations LNG Alliance, was speaking at a meeting in Prince Rupert attended by several Indigenous groups.
The First Nations LNG Alliance is a organization of First Nations who are participating in and support sustainable LNG development in British Columbia.
Karen Ogen-Toews, CEO of the Alliance also spoke at the event and addressed concerns over differences between elected and hereditary leader in the Wet’suwet’en Nation relating to LNG pipeline construction.
“These two entities serve band members and clan members. The point is, they are the same people. As leadership, it is a tough balancing act,” she said. “We need to find ways and means to sustain our communities economically. We need to balance the environment and economy, for the people.”
The CEO pointed out that the elected and hereditary leadership of the Gitxaala Nation, south of Prince Rupert have worked together for years.
“You have been modelling for us all across BC how hereditary chiefs and elected chiefs can work together for the people, for your people. It is inspiring. Thank you for your wisdom.”
“As a former chief, I attempted to bring our Wet’suwet’en elected chiefs and hereditary chiefs together so we can work together for the benefit of our people. It is sad that within the Wet’suwet’en nation it is broken and we need to fix it.”
First Nations LNG Alliance chair, Chief Dan George of the Ts’il Kaz Koh First Nation (Burns Lake Band) noted that some hereditary chiefs support the planned Coastal GasLink Pipeline, and value the benefits First Nations people can receive from it.
Addressing the opposition of environmentalists to the LNG project, Chief Vivian Tom of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation said, “I don’t mind environmentalists coming into our territory, but when they try to stop everything we have to think no. I am really thankful that we are going to have employment [from LNG development] in our Nation. It’s exciting.”
The natural gas project has reached agreements with the elected councils of all 20 First Nations (whose membership includes hereditary chiefs) along the 670-km pipeline route. It will run from Dawson Creek to Kitimat, feeding natural gas to the LNG Canada facility on Haisla territory at Kitimat.
The project includes direct funding of $620 million to First Nations businesses and contractors for construction work, with an additional $400 million expected for both northern communities in B.C. and Indigenous groups during the construction period, totalling approximately $1billion spent locally in the province.