CALGARY, Feb. 11, 2015 /CNW/ - Much has been said to date about "overcoming" the challenges of doing business with First Nations in British Columbia. It is important to keep in mind that only seven months have passed since we received confirmation of our land interests by the Supreme Court of Canada. We have been fighting legally and politically for over 150 years to return what was taken from us, and finally, the landscape for making business decisions has changed. The opportunity to work together and make our communities, our Province, and Canada stronger is here. This Declaration of Support provides evidence that, in fact, we First Nations intend, can and will work together; and he or she who wishes to do resource business in our territory needs to work with us!
The attitudes and approach to the process of working together must change. We are not trading political credits any longer. That has not been a positive experience between First Nations, the Federal Government and the Provincial Government. We have confirmed rights and title to economically valuable land and are prepared to work with business leaders who understand this new post-Tsilhoqut'in legal landscape.
We encourage all natural resource stakeholders to pay attention. Timely decisions are required concerning natural resource extraction and transportation to and from our communities. Although we now have established legal rights and the ongoing opportunity to assert such rights, pursuing legal remedies is not an efficient route to protect our interests. Rather, we need to create economic value for our respective communities without prejudicing their safety and the environment. Those parties who share the understanding that natural resource initiatives need to be led by First Nations will receive attention!
According to the Chief of the Stellat'en First Nation, Archie Patrick, "We have been voicing our views for a very long time, that our support is not for sale or to be leveraged or traded by others…those days are over. Rather, we are open for business as business equals, with land equity in hand and a willingness to define business strategy and lead environmental stewardship as partners! Unlike the past, we can now use established commercial means and dialogue to build and sustain our communities, our children and our grandchildren to come. And we will never again sit on the sidelines as we watch our resources exploited by others, with no involvement, ownership, environmental oversight, or real economic benefits."
"For decades, natural resource stakeholders have sought to understand how to work with First Nations and, regrettably, it has been difficult for all of us, and with little benefit to us", says Chief Dan George, whose community is directly on the path of the proposed Enbridge Pipeline. "No longer will we accept crumbs off the corporate table. The table we have never been invited to sit at."
According to Chief Archie Patrick, "for too long, showing up in business and / or political conversations seeking solutions with unconfirmed rights and title has weakened our economic standing. However, today, the situation has changed. Our communities now can take our commercially acceptable assets and formulate business solutions. We have the land, and with natural resources either in the ground or flowing across our territories, we can provide certainty for an equity-based platform to move forward."
BC First Nations are no longer an uncertain or political risk to doing business. They are in fact, an equity stakeholder with assets they wish to wisely invest. As Wes Sam states, "Governments and Industry may finally understand that it makes economic and social sense for First Nations to avoid simply 'declaring support' for projects, but instead to shape the way that business is conducted in our backyard, and it is through a business lens that we now must move forward."
The following principles represent the position of First Nation People in BC as it relates to resource and other developments.
We declare that we:
- are the owners and stewards of the land;
- must provide permission and consent to any project in our territory;
- must have a fair and equitable share in any project that occurs on, or runs through, our territory;
- will create the Environmental Regulations for all land-based developments based on our own Traditional Laws, that will set the standards world-wide;
- will remain the Stewards of Land, and will have sole responsibility to monitor all projects as they are developed, and throughout their life-cycle;
- WILL determine which projects will be approved through a strict decision-making process which considers such factors as environmental impacts, stewardship and sustainability; adherence with our Traditional Laws and the Economic Value to our Nations; and
- DECLARE that our land is not for sale and will not be leveraged, but we will engage in projects where we have ownership.
An example of a project that is fundamentally based upon the above Principles, and is currently being considered by a majority of First Nation communities along the proposed Corridor (and many in Northern BC who are not), is Eagle Spirit Energy. This project will supports and shares the vision and declaration of First Nations, as it proposes to put ownership and control over the Environment in the hands of the rightful landowners.
The proposed Eagle Spirit Energy Corridor provides a business platform that puts First Nations in a critical decision-making role. The opportunity for First Nations to define and express themselves in a commercial context has arrived.
According to outgoing Chief, and current Business and Economic Development Lead for the Burns Lake Indian Band, "we [First Nations] have stated that we are interested in considering the opportunity with Eagle Spirit Energy and are prepared to test this opportunity in confirming an energy corridor that will complement the efforts of all natural resource stakeholders to deliver legacy benefits for many First Nation communities, the Province, and Canada."
We, the undersigned First Nations, will continue to work with Eagle Spirit Energy through our due diligence process, given we are:
- provided a commercial governance platform (a Chiefs' Council) for us to conclude resource due diligence on our terms;
- recognized as business partners with unique rights and obligations to preserve the integrity of our laws;
- valued for our rights as owners of the land which will result in a requirement for us to share in on-going future resource profits as business partners; and
According to Burns Lake Indian Band Chief Dan George, "We are excited to work with like-minded people. We are equally excited to work with Eagle Spirit Energy and we are confident that we will demonstrate that success with First Nations is possible and so we have confirmed our participation through the Declaration of Support. This First Nations led and owned project is confirmation of First Nations commercial stewardship with and through Eagle Spirit Energy."
According to Chief Archie Patrick, "We are declaring herein our desire to test the integrity of industry by challenging them to step forward to achieve environmental stewardship, economic prosperity and simultaneously meet or exceed the expectations we have to satisfy in our communities. In taking the path to achieve mutually prosperous commercial resolutions, we will be guided by our traditional and customary laws. We are absolutely opposed to the transportation of Bitumen by rail anywhere in the province, and will stop any attempt to transport it by rail. Our support of this declaration allows us to assess the safety and viability of the Eagle Spirit Project, while ensuring that it is in the best interest of our people, our land and our children and grandchildren."
With this Declaration, we are declaring that we are united in our thinking around natural resource commerce in our territories and in continuing our consideration for the First Nations' led and owned commercial stewardship opportunity presented by Eagle Spirit Energy.
Chief Dan George
Burns Lake Indian Band
Business and Economic Development Lead
Burns Lake Indian Band
Chief Archie Patrick
Stellat'en First Nation
Head Chief, on behalf of the
Gitsegukla hereditary Chiefs
Head Chief, on behalf of the
Gitwangak Hereditary Chiefs
SOURCE Eagle Spirit Energy Holdings Ltd.
For further information: Marc Storms 250 818-7468