“We do not consent to this,” Nisga’a members say of agreement to pursue LNG project

Photo of NorthWest LNG, Nisga’a’ and PRGT presidents at signing ceremony today by Sindhu Dharmarajah

Moments before the official signing of the document, peaceful protester and Nisga’a member Grant Barton walked towards the presidents with a sign and mentioned that he represented 20 family members who were not consulted regarding the agreement.
 
“Turn around, where are the Nisga’a?” asked Barton. “This is a sad day. We have people over here to say we do not consent to this.”

The presidents of the Nisga’a nation, Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Project and Pacific Northwest LNG, on the brink of signing a "benefit agreement" to provide “right of way certainty” for a proposed LNG pipeline project, calmly exchanged looks. They waited while protester left the room, then they proceeded with the signing.

Pacific NorthWest LNG’s Michael Culbert said the organization had recently made changes to the project to mitigate environmental issues.
 
“We’ve gone forward very accurately with community groups, first nations groups…We’ve done a lot of work on the coast through consultation with the first nations as well,” said Culbert right after signing the agreement.

PRGT is proposing to design, build, own and operate and decommission a 900 km natural gas pipeline project to deliver natural gas from northeastern BC to the proposed Pacific Northwest LNG export facility at Lelu Island near Prince Rupert, according to a press release. The agreement allows the proposed Project to run through around 97 Km of Nisga’a Lands owned by the Nisga’a Nation and the Provincial Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park.
 
“This agreement with PRGT is exactly the type of opportunity our elders struggled for over a century to achieve, so we could achieve sustainable prosperity for our people into the next century,” said Nisga’a nation president Mitchell Stevens. “The Nisga’a nation is now and always has been open for business.”
 
The Nation is actively seeking investors to pursue an LNG liquefaction project using the expansion capacity it has secured on the pipeline under this agreement. The nation is represented by Nisga’a Lisims Government (NLG), which is made up of 7,000 Nisga’a citizens. NLG’s final agreement with the province in 2000 allowed them the right to self-govern and recognizes their ownership of about 2,000 sq of land.
 
“We focus and depend upon meaningful engagement with aboriginal groups, with non-aboriginal communities and with land owners,” said PRGT President Dean Patry. “More than two years ago we embarked on our process of engaging with those groups. We approached each of those groups and Nisga’a Lisims Government with a mindset of fair compensation for access to your lands, and more than that a goal centered on a lasting legacy for our communities and for your communities.”

Nisga’a member Chemnko Woods said he didn’t know much about the signings, but that he wants the members to be given a chance to be heard.
 
“We are not against our leaders; we are with them,” said Woods. “We had a consultation meeting a year ago. They said they would have follow up meetings. They did not give us follow up meetings”
 
Another member Melanie Woods said they were treated as “an afterthought” and were given more details about the project through a last-minute presentation the night before. 

“Last night it was asked that the executive come back down for a meeting and they said it’s up to our elected officials,” said Woods. “[In] less than two weeks to a month, they were going to have another meeting, but it’s already after the fact. It’s after the ceremonial signing as taken place yet they did not consult with us. Hour and a half presentation last night is not consulting. I still don’t accept it, and I’m a Nisga member and there are many of us down here who feel the same way, and we will have our voices heard.”

Nisga’a members are planning two protests against the benefits agreement next week.

The agreement will give Nisga’a Nation several financial opportunities. Some of the benefits listed in the press release include:

  • Milestone payments
  • Annual right of way payments
  • Additional payments will be made on the basis of shared future successes for both PRGT and the Nisga’a Nation
  • Nisga’a Nation will also receive significant property tax payments once the Project is operational
  • PRGT to provide exclusive contracting opportunities for right-of-way clearing, camp services, security and medical services on Nisga’a Lands
  • Nisga’a Nation will retain ownership of merchantable timber harvested within Nisga’a Lands
  • The Nation and PRGT will work together to determine whether the Nisga’a Nation can build a future natural gas distribution scheme to serve homes within the Nass Valley

The Nisga’a Nation also has other commercial agreements with other organizations including BC Hydro for the Northwest Transmission Line and Seabridge Gold for the proposed KSM mining project among others.

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