By Roy L Hales
The Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Project’s website proudly displays press releases about their agreements with the Lake Babine, Kitselas and Gitanyou First Nations. They also display the results of a 2014 poll that reports most of the people along the proposed pipeline route support them. The BC government has already issued construction permit and environmental assessment permit. Yet, according to their lawyer, the Luutkudziiwus were not consulted about the 34 km stretch of pipeline that would cross their traditional territory to carry 2 billion to 3.6 billion cubic feet of gas, per day, from Hudson’s Hope to the proposed LNG facility on Lelu Island.
Lack Of Consultation
“The house of Luutkudziiwus has not been consulted, they have been bypassed,” said Mary Macauley, of Eyford Macaulay Shaw & Padmanabhan LLP.
She is one of the lawyers who will filing an application to have the court quash both certificates issued by the province and direct both the government and Trans Canada to properly consult with the house of Luutkudziiwus.
“We are taking the government to court over the lack of consultation, inadequate baseline information presented, a weak and subjective impact assessment, and the current cumulative effects from past development. People from all over northern BC are now outraged about the $40 billion Petronas LNG project. It is unbelievable that they claim they consulted with us,” says Luutkudziiwus spokesperson Richard Wright in a press release.
“Clark’s LNG dream is a nightmare for us. While she tries to maintain a shiny picture of LNG in their conference this week, the reality is that First Nations are being bulldozed, and we have had enough,” says Hereditary Chief Luutkudziiwus (Charlie Wright).
Consulted With The Wrong Entity
Macauley, explained, “We understand Trans Canada Pipelines have been negotiating an organization called either the Gitxsan Treaty Society (GTS), or the Gitxsan Development Corporation. They have been told that those two organizations do not represent the house of Luutkudziiwus. The house are the title holders and entitled to be consulted.”
According to Luutkudziiwus website, Madii Lii, the Head Chiefs of the House groups from “over 65% of all the traditional territory of the Gitxsan Nation” do not acknowledge the Gitxsan Treaty Society as “as representatives of the Gitxsan people.”
“I guess the provincial government finds it convenient to deal with an organization that holds itself out as an umbrella organization, but my clients told the government, the Gitxsan Development Corporation and TransCanada Pipelines that this is not an organization that represents them,” said Macauley.
At another point in our conversation she added, “The government has known this for a long time and they have a constitutional obligation to consult with the title and rights holders before allowing activity that will infringe upon title and rights. Those principles were established in a case called Haida Nation, which was decided by the Supreme Court in 2004”
The Luutkudziiwus are concerned about the rights to their land and their rights to fish.
“The Skeena River is their fishery. All the aspects of the pipeline impact their rights to fish because fish are migratory and they do not respect the dividing up of a project into different environmental reviews. They swim all the way up the Skeena,” said Macauley.
(The video below depicts the erection of camp Madii Lii, in defence of Luutkudziiwus territory, last August.)
Both the Ministry of the Environment and BC Gas and Oil Commission sidestepped the specifics of the ECOreport’s questions:
- “Is it true the Luutkudziiwus were not consulted about the 34 km segment crossing their territory?”
- “Is it true the government consulted with the Gitxsan Treaty Society and Gitxsan Development Corporation, knowing that neither of these organizations have a right to speak for the Luutkudziiwus?”
- “The Luutkudziiwus claim the serious adverse effects to fish and their habitats, wildlife and their habitats, terrestrial and aquatic resources, including cumulative effects, as well as to social, cultural, and economic values have not been considered. Is this true?”
- (Worded differently depending on the Ministry addressed.) “What validity does that environmental assessment have if the Luutkudziiwus were not consulted?
Spokespersons from the two Ministries emailed two identical replies claiming that:
“The Province has made significant efforts to consult with First Nations on the project and has ensured, to the fullest extent possible, that potential impacts to aboriginal interests have been avoided, mitigated, or otherwise accommodated.”
From The Environmental Assessment
As you can see to the left, the Environmental Assessment Office’s (EAO) claims the Luutkudziiwus were “consulted at a deeper level.” On page 641 of their assessment , it states there was a meeting with several First Nations groups, including Luutkudziiwus, in Hazleton:
“On April 16, 2014, EAO and OGC met with wilp Haiwaas, Mauus, Gwininitxw, and Luutkudziiwus in Hazelton. Issues discussed included EA timelines, the role of the GDC, TUS funded by the Proponent and conducted through GDC, EAO’s initial strength of claims assessment and the protection of culturally modified trees.”
This looks more like an information meeting than “consultation.”
Does Christy Clark’s government and the pipeline company think that, ignoring the actual title holder of Madii Lii, they can make deals with a third party?