“We [some of the hereditary chiefs] totally oppose LNG; our traditional territory is not for sale and never will be,” said a press release sent by Mary-Ann Matthew she said was on behalf of some of the Babine Lake hereditary chiefs.
On May 1, 2015, Lake Babine Nation’s chief and four councillors decided to proceed with two liquefied natural gas (LNG) agreements. One of these agreements was with TransCanada and one with the province regarding the proposed Prince Rupert Gas Transmission project. A close vote of five to four was responsible for the decision.
If the proposed project proceeds, the province will pay over $3.56 million to Lake Babine Nation. Babine Lake hereditary chiefs are now saying that they were not consulted before this decision was made.
“As there was no referendum, we resorted to finding information and the figures of promise to the Lake Babine Nation on the news,” said hereditary chiefs press release. “Many agreements have been made behind closed doors by the Lake Babine Nation [band council] without our [hereditary chiefs] consent, promising jobs to our people but to no avail.”
Lake Babine Nation has approximately 2440 members. If the $3.56 million that will be paid by the province were to be divided between all members, each member would receive approximately $1460.
“That is worse than welfare income,” said hereditary chiefs press release. “Some Lake Babine Nation staff say we need to get a piece of the pie, however, how could one not view our territory as priceless.”
The press release went on to say they are concerned about the destruction that fracking and natural gas pipelines could cause in the area, including industrial accidents – spills, blow up, leaks – that would harm wildlife, salmon, medicinal plants and traditional food.
“As the Babine Lake hereditary chiefs, we will not stand still to have our traditional territory destroyed as the 149 miles long fresh water Babine Lake is our source of traditional food and sustenance,” said the press release.
But not all Babine Lake hereditary chiefs agree on this issue.
Contrary to the press release from Mary-Ann Matthew, hereditary chief Nancy Williams said she and her husband have not been contacted by the proponents of the press release.
“I, being one of the leaders as matriarch in the house of the grizzly, was not contacted with regard to this press release and my husband [James Williams], who is the leader of the frog clan, was not contacted,” she said.
“It is the intention of those who were not consulted with regard to this press release to have a meeting in the very near future to discuss this issue,” she added.
There are a total of 120 Lake Babine hereditary chiefs, and it is unclear how many are opposed to the LNG agreements.
Lake Babine Nation Chief Wilf Adam said hereditary chiefs had every opportunity to be a part of the consultation process and express their opinions.
“We held community consultations in Smithers, Prince George, Vancouver, Woyenne, Tachet and Fort Babine,” he said. “They [hereditary chiefs] had an opportunity to be there, and they weren’t.”
On April 20, Lake Babine Nation held a liquefied natural gas demonstration at the Margaret Patrick Memorial Hall where Chief Adam spoke to his membership.
Chief Adam added that consultations are a two-way street, and that Lake Babine Nation does not hold any referendums for major projects.
“I’m quite satisfied that we did our due diligence in getting those deals for our nation; we made sure that our environment was taken care of; our contracts state that the natural gas pipeline cannot be converted to oil.”