According to John Rustad, B.C. Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, the province has had over 90 per cent success rate signing pipeline benefits agreements with First Nations groups so far.
To date, the province has signed a total of 62 pipeline benefits agreements with 29 of 32 eligible First Nations that are located along proposed natural gas pipeline projects. These projects include the Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project, Pacific Trail Pipeline, Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Project and the Westcoast Connector Gas Transmission Project.
According to the provincial government, LNG development is a multi-generational opportunity, and one that has the potential to drive the B.C. economy for decades.
“Nearly every First Nation on proposed natural gas pipeline routes has benefits agreements with the province,” said the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation in a statement. “We’re having very positive discussions with those remaining First Nations, and through dialogue and negotiation, we’re able to address their concerns.”
“Many negotiations can be challenging, while others are relatively easy, but the fact that we have reached 62 agreements with 29 nations along the natural gas pipelines shows that we’re able to work through all levels of challenging negotiations with First Nations,” added the ministry.
According to Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief John Ridsdale, however, the fact that the province has had over 90 per cent success rate signing deals with First Nations groups doesn’t mean that the majority of First Nations in B.C. support LNG development.
“They [the province] are being very selective on who they’re saying are supporting them,” said Ridsdale. “When they talk about 90 per cent support they are only talking about elected officials, not the hereditary system.”
According to Ridsdale, the provincial government has not been properly consulting with First Nations regarding LNG development.
“That’s not the proper way to do it,” he said. “They want to talk about government to government relationships, and yet they go and start talking to smaller entities such as bands without coming to the true leadership of the nation [hereditary chiefs].”
“The government’s strategy is to divide and conquer, and if they can get some entities supporting them, they want to convince the public that it’s a done deal when it’s far from being a done deal,” he continued. “They [the province] are actually going backwards.”
The Unist’ot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en has set up a protective camp south of Houston and has been physically impeding pipeline proponents such as TransCanada and Chevron from entering their territory.
Meanwhile, First Nations groups in the Burns Lake area – including Lake Babine Nation, Wet’suwet’en First Nation, Burns Lake Band, Skin Tyee First Nation and Nee Tahi Buhn Indian Band – have already signed pipeline benefits agreements.
“Pipeline benefits agreements are just one vehicle driving our participation in LNG development,” said Wet’suwet’en First Nation Chief Karen Ogen. “While these agreements ensure First Nation communities share in the economic benefits of LNG, we are working collaboratively with the province and other First Nations to ensure environmental priorities are addressed as well.”
There are currently 20 proposed LNG projects in B.C. The provincial government set a goal of having three LNG facilities in operation by 2020.