FORT FRASER, BC, Feb. 11, 2015 /CNW/ - Nadleh Whut'en First Nation Council says it is no longer "business as usual" with respect to resource development in its territory: Industry and the Crown must accept the existence of our Yinka Dene environmental laws or they will find that investment conditions are not present to allow their projects to succeed.
The announcement comes as Nadleh Whut'en is in court challenging the constitutionality of the Crown's conduct in relation to both oil and gas pipelines.
Nadleh Whut'en First Nation Chief Martin Louie stated: "First Nations are ready to be part of the solution to fostering a thriving economy and a healthy environment in BC," "Yet we've seen nothing but business as usual since last summer's Tsilhoqut'in decision. Conflict continues and no final investment decisions have been made in any LNG project."
Chief Louie believes it is key for resource companies and the Crown to respect the fact that Yinka Dene laws are the laws of the land when it comes to projects in their territory.
"Along with over a hundred other nations, Nadleh Whut'en has banned the proposed Enbridge pipeline project from our territories, but the issue is bigger than Enbridge," said Chief Louie. "The potential is there for many other types of projects and developments to proceed responsibly in our territory, whether LNG, logging, mining, or oil by pipeline – if our laws and standards are met. As soon as Enbridge was stalled, oil by rail shipments increased dramatically." said Chief Louie.
Nadleh Whut'en understands that by effectively blocking the Enbridge pipeline, the result has been that upwards of hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil are and will be transported by rail. It is our belief, and that of many other experts, that railways are not a safe method for transportation of toxic products like oil, bitumen, and solvents.
Oil shipments by rail in Western Canada are expected to increase by up to three fold over the next year. In an effort to be pragmatic and participatory, we recognize the need for our involvement in the environmental assessment, approval and monitoring processes for these large-scale pipelines. We believe that we can better protect our lands and the environment by engaging actively and directing the regulatory process.
Nadleh Whut'en First Nation has moved to call on the provincial government to immediately take steps to ensure that no further resource approvals are granted in Nadleh Whut'en territory unless they conform to terms under Yinka Dene law.
According to a statement by Nadleh Whut'en Council, "Appreciating the fact that the British Columbia government seems now willing to engage with us on a Government to Government basis, we are hopeful that our discussions will produce positive results by agreeing that the approach must conform to the Yinka Dene laws, in shared decision making negotiations."
"Shipping oil by rail is not safe, and we are not consulted in spite of these trains going through our Territories. We believe that we can better protect our lands and the environment by engaging in the project development process, instead of boycotting it," concluded Chief Louie.
Nadleh Whut'en First Nation has moved to outline the following terms under which government and industry must engage regarding the development of resource projects within their territories:
- The First Nations shared decision-making process needs to be consistent with customary laws and traditional knowledge, to mitigate project environmental impacts as well as to address the permitting approvals process.
- Government and industry must support and accommodate the First Nations option to pursue an equity stake in any/all projects as part of an Impact Benefit Agreement, separate from revenue sharing considerations.
Terms consistent with respecting Yinka Dene law:
Respecting that Nadleh Whut'en First Nation and Council are the owners and stewards of the land, declares that:
- Nadleh Whut'en people (Carriers) inhabit central British Columbia and Bahlats governance is our sovereign laws which are the basis of our requirement that must follow for active and equal partners in policy-making and decision-making affecting our traditional lands.
- We must provide permission and consent to any project in our territory;
- We must have a fair and equitable share in any project that occurs on, or runs through, our territory;
- We will enforce the Environmental Regulations for all land-based developments, consistent with our Traditional Laws;
- We will remain the Stewards of Land, and will have responsibility to oversee and monitor all projects as they are developed, and throughout their life-cycle;
- We 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 amount of meaningful economic value to our Nations; and
- Respecting that our land is not for sale and will not be leveraged, but that we will engage in projects where we have ownership.
First Nation Voices Frustration With Developments in its Territory: Looks to Eagle Spirit Project as Potential Model for Moving Forward
While the following is not an endorsement of the Eagle Spirit Energy Project (ESE), Nadleh Whut'en is carefully examining this project as a potential demonstration project for Aboriginal resource development. The ESE project has the potential to establish many pioneering milestones if partnerships with industry, and the provincial and federal government's can be established with mutually-shared benefits. Future consideration, participation and support therefore, will be based on and conditional upon, the following:
- For the last 2 years, ESE has presented a First Nation led and Environmental and Economic model that provides for real aboriginal input. At this point in time, we are exploring with ESE an acceptable First Nation process aimed at satisfying First Nation Environmental and Economic demands. We have shared with ESE that we are NOT providing any approval until we are fully satisfied.
- We are practical, but always skeptical. My community would only support a process to achieve First Nation Environmental and Economic needs.
- That Government and Industry seek our approval with First Nation's driving the process to ensure and confirm Environmental and Economic demands.
- We are encouraged by ESE's First Nation support and partnership approach as it is consistent with my Vision and that of my Council, for First Nations control and ownership of our land and resources.
- We are prepared to test ESE's integrity through exploring this opportunity. We need to participate in the process otherwise we cannot adequately and successfully ensure or achieve our interests and demands.
- We are going to give ESE a unique opportunity to work with us BUT we will have to wait and see if ESE is worthy of First Nation approval which is NOT provided at all today.
Nadleh Whut'en Council will continue to monitor and 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
- Assured that Eagle Spirit Energy shares our concern about transporting Bitumen across British Columbia by rail.
SOURCE Nadleh Whut'en First Nation Council
For further information: Martin Louie 250 570-7759