For a first trip outside of Canada, Wet’suwet’en hereditary Chief Na’Moks (John Ridsdale) chose quite the locale.
He travelled with other First Nations leaders from the Northwest to the United Nations in New York last Thursday to voice their opposition against the planned Pacific Northwest LNG project on Lelu Island at the mouth of the Skeena River off Prince Rupert’s coast.
“It was well received. People from all over the world like France, Germany, Africa, New Zealand, Australia, all lining to talk to us.
We all had the same issues with industry.” said Na’Moks, who is also on the board of Skeena Wild, which brought the delegation down to the UN headquarters.
“We’re going to come back in a year and report to them on whether or not Prime Minister Trudeau was just giving us lip service, or is he actually going to make a real relationship for First Nations,” added Na’Moks.
The Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Project pipeline that would carry liquified natural gas from northeast B.C. to Lelu Island would pass north of Hazelton in Gitxsan traditional territory.
HapWilxsa (Kirby Muldoe) of the Gitxsan First Nation was part of the UN delegation.
“To us, what happens in the Skeena right now is a litmus test for our new government,” HapWilxsa said in a statement.
“Our food security is at risk. So is our culture. We are the natural stewards of the Skeena, and we will not allow it to be desecrated by an offshore oil company, period,” added HapWilxsa.
A federal decision whether to approve the $36-billion LNG plan was extended to late June.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett also announced May 10 that Canada now fully supports the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, removing the objector status put in place by the last government.
“We’re on the world stage, and now because [Prime Minister Trudeau] is on the world stage, let’s be on the same stage an let’s see if these are just words,” said Na’Moks.
“That is our main message: Free, prior informed consent, and the new relationship.”
Algmxaa (Murray Smith) a house leader of the Lax Kw’alaams Gitwilgyoots Tribe, and Li’dytsm’Lax’nee’ga Neexl (Christine Smith-Martin) of the same tribe also travelled with the group.
“What we are hearing at the UN is that many other hereditary Canadian First Nations leaders share our concern that the Trudeau government is confused about where decision-making authority lies when it comes to our lands and waters,” said Smith-Martin in a release.
“Our band councils are not nations. If the Government of Canada wants a nation-to-nation relationship, then that begins and ends with our ancestral, hereditary leadership. And in the case of [Pacific NW LNG proponent] Petronas, that begins by putting an end to this project without further delay,” he added.