Lake Babine Nation (LBN) Chief Wilf Adam is considering withdrawing his support for LNG projects after a proposed 25-year agreement with the province fell through last week.
The province had been collaborating with LBN on a new approach to reconciliation that would be implemented over a 25-year span. The proposed agreement, which was expected to be finalized this month, set out incremental steps designed to address Aboriginal rights and title, governance, community well-being, social conditions, and build trust and accountability over time.
After a meeting in Vancouver with the provincial government last week, Chief Adam said he was “very disappointed.”
“Right now the negotiations are off,” he said. “We are no longer able to move forward.”
According to Chief Adam, LBN did not agree with some of the terms of the agreement, especially the ones related to forestry.
“They would not go beyond what they put on the table,” said Chief Adam. “What they put on the table is not enough; it’s less than what they are offering elsewhere and it will not work for LBN at all.”
“I though this would be an avenue where we would find new and innovative ways of moving ahead, but we’re back to the same old thing,” he continued. “I came into these negotiations with B.C. so that we would go beyond and do better than the treaty negotiations that have been dragging on for nearly 30 years with no results.”
Chief Adam said the provincial government has been extracting resources from LBN territory “without any meaningful agreement in place.” Therefore LBN is now considering civil action against the province.
“In the next few days we will be discussing any civil action that needs to be taken,” he said.
The provincial government said in a statement to Lakes District News that the province values its relationship with LBN and that the provincial government is disappointed that Chief Adam has indicated he can’t continue working on the 25-year agreement.
“The province has been working with LBN in good faith, seeking ways to address the nation’s desire to address Aboriginal title, long-standing social conditions and to find pathways for Lake Babine to increase their participation in the regional economy,” said the statement.
“These issues are complex and challenging for all – the province is committed to implementing change over time as the legal, social, environmental and economic climate evolves, however, the province could not meet the nation’s needs for change in the timeline the nation is looking for.”
The province still has existing agreements with LBN. These include a reconciliation framework agreement signed in March 2016 as well as an interim forestry agreement.
“The province is committed to working with LBN and honouring our existing agreements,” added the statement.
As a result of the failed agreement, Chief Adam said LBN might withdraw its support for LNG.
Lake Babine Nation signed a pipeline benefits agreement with the province and entered a project agreement with TransCanada for the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Line (PRGT) in 2015. The agreements provided immediate benefits on signing and would provide annual legacy payments for the duration of the commercial operation of the pipeline.
Although LBN has already received the immediate benefits, Chief Adam said those were “negotiating dollars.”
“If we leave [the agreement], future benefits will not be forthcoming and, in our opinion, they can build the [PRGT] pipeline outside our territory.”
The PRGT is a proposed 900-km pipeline that would deliver natural gas from a point near the District of Hudson’s Hope, B.C, to the Pacific NorthWest LNG facility within the District of Port Edward on Lelu Island.
PRGT released a statement to Lakes District News saying they appreciate their relationship with LBN. However, they said they were “unable to comment on the specifics of the project.”
The total amount that LBN would receive from the LNG agreements would add up to approximately $100 million over 40 years.
In regards to LNG support, the provincial government said they “hope to continue working with Lake Babine Nation on the LNG opportunities that exist for their members.”
Chief Adam said he hopes to meet with premier Christy Clark and PRGT representatives this week to continue discussions.
“We’ll give negotiations one more shot,” he said. “If that doesn’t work, then everything is off the table.”