Without license: many B.C. First Nations still oppose LNG

Premier Christy Clark is hosting an LNG summit in Vancouver this week, but many B.C. First Nations have no intention of signing on to her plans.

Gitxsan hereditary chief Samson Muldoe opposes LNG - Mychaylo Prystupa
Gitxsan chief Samson Muldoe, 81, kicked TransCanada LNG pipeline drillers off his traditional territory in March. Photo by Mychaylo Prystupa.

This week, Premier Christy Clark is putting a shiny bow on her government’s LNG effort with a huge summit and trade show in downtown Vancouver. Captains of the oil and gas industry have flown in from around the world (the President of Shell Oil among them), and several B.C. and Alberta ministers are representing.  Trouble is, many key B.C. First Nations are still not on board.

“Right now, I don’t think they have social license,” said Tribal Chief Terry Teegee on Tuesday.  He leads the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, representing eight First Nations in northern B.C.

“They have not addressed the cumulative effects of these pipelines, at least within our territory,” he said.  

The province's LNG website shows there are now proposals for a staggering 9 natural gas pipelines, that would connect to 13 coastal LNG plants.  All the projects trespass aboriginal territories.

Chief Terry Teegee - Carrier Sekani Tribal Council

Chief Terry Teegee - Carrier Sekani Tribal Council - photo provided by chief

 

Teegee is just one of several First Nations leaders who spoke with the Vancouver Observer about their concerns about the Premier’s strong push for LNG projects. They say the province does not yet have enough support from First Nations to turn Clark’s $178 billion LNG plan into a reality.

Carrier Sekani territories would be crossed by five massive natural gas pipelines, worth a staggering $18 billion.  Worrying many Sekani though, are the pipeline’s environmental effects on the land, water and fish.

“We haven’t agreed to anything yet.  Until that time…we have to make informed decisions on these projects,” said Chief Teegee.

BC LNG map

From the northeast

One can track B.C. Aboriginals' concerns about LNG starting in the province's remote northeast, where thousands of underground frack drills would explode petroleum-rich rock to bring the gas and oil to the surface. 

Fort Nelson First Nation's 33-year-old leader -- Chief Sharleen Gale -- recently and dramatically raised a feather at an LNG summit there, demanding that provincial officials remove themselves from a recent industry conference.  Her worry?  The effects of LNG on her people's air and watersheds.

Fort Nelson First Nation Chief Sharleen Gale - Youtube

Fort Nelson First Nation Chief Sharleen Gale - YouTube

 

“In those kind of moments, you just have to do what’s right in your heart.  I had no idea what I had to say, but bringing my eagle feather gave me the strength and the courage,” she said last month.

“The way things are going now – [LNG] is a no go,” she said.

Since then, Chief Gale had a meeting with Premier Clark, and has softened her statements: 

“We support the Province’s goal of a new LNG industry, but it must be done right – environmentally, culturally and economically.”  She was not available for comment on Tuesday.

Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en on BC tribes map

Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en shown on B.C. tribes map

 

Along the LNG pipelines' path are north central B.C.’s many tribes. Two among them in particular -- the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en – have clashed with government and industry over the multi-billion-dollar LNG projects.

'All they are pushing is money'

For several years, Wet’suwet’en protesters from the Unist'ot'en house have held a “soft blockade” against LNG on a key bridge south of Houston, B.C.  They disallow any pipeline contractors from working in the territory.

“All they are pushing is ‘money, money, money.  We will give you money.’  But they are not giving particulars about the project,” said protester Freda Huson.

“People are misinformed.  They use the term LNG as ‘liqui[fied] natural’ – so natural sounds very safe, and it’s not detrimental to the environment, but it’s actually ‘frack-gas’, and people aren’t educated on what fracking can do.” 

And while a local band chief is in support of LNG, hereditary chiefs – who hold sway over the much larger Wet’suwet’en territory of 22,000 square kilometres – are in “near unanimous” opposition against LNG, said Wet'suwet'en Tsayu Clan Chief Na’moks (English name John Ridsdale): 

“You have a government that is strictly looking at a tax base, rather than impacts to the land, water and people,” said Na’moks.

Freda Huson

Wet’suwet’en proteser Freda Huson at an anti-Chevron LNG rally - March 2013 - photo by Caelie Frampton

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