The following letter was publicly posted on 15 March 2018 by the Haisla First Nation, a couple of days after it was sent to BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver:
A recent blog post by BC Green Party leader Dr. Andrew Weaver criticized the LNG industry, and the government for promoting it. Building an LNG industry in Haisla territory has been a priority for Haisla Nation Council for years, and Chief Councillor Crystal Smith has offered a rebuttal to Weaver’s perspective.
Dear Dr. Andrew Weaver
There’s one aspect of your essay, Dr. Weaver, (‘It’s time politicians level with British Columbians about LNG’, February 28, 2018) where we certainly agree; that, fundamentally, decisions around resource development absolutely must include partnership of First Nations.
In Kitimat, which is in Haisla Territory that has been the case with the LNG industry, including with LNG Canada, a company you reference in your post.
The Haisla Nation has been working closely with LNG proponents for more than a decade now, toward the purpose of seeing a project built which will bring welcome investment to communities in the north.
While I acknowledge that I am not, myself, a scientist, Haisla Nation Council relies on the amazing technical work that has gone on behind the scenes, including the ongoing efforts by our own Lands and Fisheries departments which work every day to maintain and protect our environment.
Meanwhile, our ongoing struggle has been dealing with outside interests which seem to have a better idea than us of what we should do. Dr. Weaver, you’re not the first person who has broadcast ideas from a comfortable seat in the province’s south, claiming what is in our interests.
We do not need to remind you about the history of racism, residential schools and lost opportunities First Nations have experienced in this province. In our community, our biggest concerns are jobs for our people, educating our youth, dealing with mental health and suicide, and preserving our nation’s language and culture with our elders.
From your essay, your advice to your students includes using their purchasing power to send a signal against high greenhouse gas emitting products. Well, during LNG projects’ early works in Kitimat, a large amount of our combined purchasing power was thanks to LNG projects and the work they provided, as well as the major upgrade of the local aluminum smelter.
For Haisla members in particular, it was through that local employment that opportunities arose, including the ability to buy new vehicles or homes, and even having access to training and post-secondary courses.
There’s enough “you should” statements directed at the North. Whether you accept it or not, LNG is a promising industry for us and has already provided millions of dollars of benefits through their early works.
Unlike others who think the answer is simply ‘no’ to development, we believe in balance between the economy and the environment. Projects can be built right. A project like LNG Canada provides the right balance for us, being a potential major employer and the lowest CO2 emitting LNG facility in the world.
We’ve spent more than a decade speaking with LNG proponents to emphasize what’s important to us in our communities and we’ve enjoyed the debate which has led us to today.
Dr. Weaver, we invite you to visit our northern communities, meet with Haisla Nation Council, and understand who we are and what we stand for in a face-to-face conversation. Those who propose to invest in our communities have made that effort. We’d be happy for the BC Green Party to do the same.
Haisla Nation Council
(Chief Crystal is also a member of the board of directors of our First Nations LNG Alliance.)
(Posted here 17 March 2018)