First Nations elected and Hereditary Chiefs from across Northern British Columbia have joined together to sign a historic letter that declares their support for the development of a multibillion-dollar energy pipeline corridor through their traditional territories by Eagle Spirit Energy.
"The energy corridor pipeline will not only benefit many First Nation communities, but will benefit the economies of BC and all of Canada," said Lax Kw'alaams Hereditary Chief Alex Campbell.
First Nations leaders support the government of BC's position that the shipment of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is the priority. The proposed energy corridor is not only the solution for shipping BC LNG but also Alberta oil.
"This route will enable the shipment of both Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and oil," said Wesley Sam, Chiefs' Council Representative for the First Nations on the Eagle Spirit Pipeline. "We realise that much more work needs to be done and it is time to get on with it."
Three years ago Eagle Spirit Energy was formed as a First Nations led initiative to develop an energy corridor from Alberta to B.C. tidewater. An energy corridor means that pipelines can be built to efficiently and safely transport Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), and later on oil, to a proposed tanker loading export facility located on tidewater in northern BC.
This historic letter to Prime Minister Harper, and Premiers Clark, Notley and Wall states, "our support [is] for moving forward with Eagle Spirit to continue to meet with all communities, to continue the necessary due diligence in terms of the environmental protection, to assess the viability of the project, and to clearly establish the benefits to our communities."
"This letter is historic because it is the first time that First Nations have come together with a resolution like this," said Wesley Sam "Our communities are committed to supporting the Eagle Spirit project through an environmental lens.”
"The Chiefs have come together as leaders committed to developing a world class environmental model, while continuing to provide due diligence over this project through traditional First Nations law and environmental stewardship. As meaningful participants and owners of the Eagle Spirit project, we know that our economic future, as well as that of the Canadian economy, is best served by ensuring that oil can reach markets abroad in the safest way possible. We refuse to see oil shipped by rail through our traditional territories."
"We fully support Premier Clark's five conditions for a pipeline which include safeguarding our environment and meeting the legal requirements regarding Aboriginal and treaty rights," said Chief Campbell, whose Lax Kw'alaams First Nation is located near the proposed marine terminal in the Prince Rupert area.
This breakthrough is the result of two years of listening to the concerns of First Nations communities. A responsive model was developed that would provide appropriate consultation, enhanced land and marine environmental protections, and fair compensation for the Province of British Columbia, First Nations, and northern communities.
Exclusivity and benefits agreements, and non-disclosure agreements have been signed by those First Nations through whose traditional territories the pipelines would cross. The initial and ongoing participation of impacted First Nations will be incorporated into the project through the formation of an innovative Chiefs' Council. The parties are presently working together to determine the final route and towards the completion of final binding agreements.
Edited from press release by Angharad Lock