PRINCE RUPERT, BC, March 4, 2015 /CNW/ - Over one hundred members of the northern B.C. First Nation of Lax Kw'alaams were bristling with strong opinions when they met with Eagle Spirit Energy representatives for an information session in Prince Rupert on Monday.
After two and half years of listening to First Nations, Eagle Spirit learned that northern aboriginal residents are most concerned about the environment. They want to ensure that a world-class model (with strong aboriginal input) protects the environment for a potential oil pipeline across northern B.C. They have also unanimously turned thumbs down on bitumen being shipped across the province and on Kitimat as a potential port.
Matriarch Mn'gadn wii hayetsk (Helen Johnson) said "Our community met with Eagle Spirit representatives on this project last year and the vote taken resulted in overwhelming support for further assessment of it. Much disinformation was spread after that meeting by the media about opposition to the project. Eagle Spirit was clear that they are not planning to build a refinery on the coast and there was definite interest in exploring the project further from our members."
Hereditary House Leader Xaiget (Robert Sankey) commented, "Given its importance to the national economy we know oil is eventually coming to the B.C. north coast. We sure don't want bitumen by rail or by Enbridge's pipeline. We want the input into an environmental protection model that the Eagle Spirit project offers. Our community has huge unemployment problems and, once we are fully satisfied the environment is being adequately protected, we need the opportunities that are not being provided by environmental do-gooders now."
"The suggestion that there is unified opposition to the Eagle Spirit oil pipeline proposal on the north coast is ridiculous," suggested elder G'uin ba.x me.dik (George Bryant), "when leaders prevent project information from reaching their members. Community members are not stupid and need to have access to the facts so they can judge for themselves. The last thing we need is environmental organizations dictating how we should steward the traditional territories we have already protected for the last 10,000 years."
Hereditary Sm'gyeget (Chiefs) Nees Wexs (Clyde Dudoward), Ligi Watgwatk (Donald Alexcee), Gitxoon (Alex Campbell), and Nees Nuganoos (Randy Dudoward) took issue with a recent press release citing elder Murray Smith who supposedly spoke for the nine tribes in the community on this subject, collectively stating that, "neither Murray or Art Sterritt's Coastal First Nations organization speak for our tribes or community and they should stop pretending they do. We were not consulted by those groups for any real opinion. We can do our own thinking and looking after our own land."
Lax Kw'alaams Councilor Chris Sankey said that, "the huge amount of positive support for the Eagle Spirit proposal shown by our community members today reinforces previous interest in further exploring this. Of all the pipeline projects seeking to come through our territory, this project offers the highest environmental protection and the greatest benefits to our community [based on preliminary information available so far]."
SOURCE Northern B.C. First Nation Chiefs
For further information: Alex Campbell (250) 624-8530 or (778) 884-1904; Robert Sankey (250) 624-5785