The Saulteau First Nations have reached an agreement with the B.C. Government for the Coastal Gaslink LNG pipeline. The agreement could bring major economic opportunities through an initial cash payment of 3.9 million and a share of ongoing annual benefits if the line comes into operation. Along with other First Nations along the pipeline route, the Saulteau will also share in the $10 million per year of ongoing benefits should the natural gas line become operational.
This agreement is the latest of several that the Saulteau First Nations has signed with the B.C. government in addition to a Relationship and Reconciliation Agreement in 2015. The leadership of the community is moving forward with negotiated agreements in an effort to marry modern economic opportunities with their treaty rights and traditional ways of life.
“This agreement is part of a growing recognition of our long-held treaty rights. It has the potential to help our community achieve its goals, and it represents another step towards a more balanced and respectful relationship between the Province and our Nation. Everyone must respect our treaty rights and work with us to find solutions,” said Saulteau First Nations Chief Nathan Parenteau in a press release issued last week.
The proposed Coastal Gaslink is a natural gas pipeline that would span 670 kilometres from Dawson Creek to the proposed LNG Canada processing facility in Kitimat. The Coastal Gaslink would be owned and managed by TransCanada Corporation. While the B.C. Government issued environmental assessment certificates for the Coastal GasLink project in the fall of 2014, the project still needs various permits before it can proceed.
Benefit agreements like the one negotiated by the Saulteau bring much needed capital into First Nations where it can be used to support their overall vision for community development.
Several other First Nations have also reached benefit agreements with the B.C. Government for the proposed Coastal GasLink project, including: Doig River; Halfway River; Kitselas; Lheidli T’enneh; McLeod Lake; Moricetown; Nee Tahi Buhn; Skin Tyee; West Moberly; Wet’suwet’en First Nation and Yekooche. These benefit agreements are available for viewing on the B.C. Government website.
First Nations along the pipeline route have also been negotiating directly with Coastal Gaslink for additional opportunities in addition to agreements reached with the B.C. government. The company has been in discussions with First Nations to gather information about traditional practices and to negotiate unique agreements for each community. These agreements tend to vary and focus on the specific interests of each First Nation. Some examples of benefits in industry agreements include: training, education. revenue, contract opportunities for First Nation owned businesses, and a liaison committee to foster strong relationships.
So far, 13 of the 22 First Nations on the natural gas pipeline route have negotiated industry benefit agreements with Coastal GasLink including: Blueberry River; Burns Lake; Doig River; Halfway River; Kitselas; Lheidli T’enneh; McLeod Lake; Nadleh Whut’en; Nee Tahi Buhn; Skin Tyee; Wet’suwet’en First Nation; West Moberly; and, Yekooche.
While it remains to be seen whether this project will proceed, it is worth noting that if the project does go ahead the First Nations involved stand to benefit greatly, not only by ensuring the projects minimize impacts to their rights and title, but also from the economic opportunities that could result – potentially changing the quality of life for their members for decades and generations to come.