Aboriginal title certainty is good for business

Haisla chief councillor says provincial government support of LNG is critical

By Ellis Ross

With the provincial election campaign now entering its home stretch, it is important that all parties understand the Haisla point of view on key issues that affect everyone in the northwest — Haisla and non-Haisla.

First, we are concerned by the NDP promise to establish another environmental assessment process for the Enbridge pipeline, albeit a BC process. Haisla Nation Council are already running a deficit in the hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal and consulting fees for participating in the federal Joint Review Panel.  Our opposition to Northern Gateway is unshakeable and we will continue to fight it but it doesn’t seem right that the Haisla incur a deficit to review a project that is not in the Haisla interest. The Haisla do not support Northern Gateway.  Neither do the NDP or Greens.  The BC Liberals have their five conditions.  There is no need for further study beyond the process underway.

Second, we are concerned by some mixed messages from the NDP on LNG. Mr. Dix says the party supports the development of this industry, but some of his candidates have hinted at a need to slow down LNG progress.

LNG is the first economic development initiative that has united First Nations from Prince George to Kitamaat and offers us the ability to manage our social problems (suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, etc.) and lift us out of poverty — something the Indian Act and federal tax dollars have been unable to do.

It is also being developed responsibly through plans and technology designed to mitigate the environmental impacts of power generation and shipping.  We need the government, whoever they may be, to commit to the responsible and timely development of an LNG export industry.

Finally, in recent years the Haisla have realized that the treaty process is agonizingly slow and cumbersome, and that we can make meaningful progress by dealing directly with the provincial government on land issues.

The delay in reaching agreement on land issues affects regions and the province in the short and long term regardless of the condition the economy may be in. Land is our priority.  It is through certainty over land that we are able to encourage sensible economic development while also abiding by aboriginal rights and title case law.

This approach has clearly benefitted industry, government, the province — and the Haisla.  The only three LNG projects in BC that have national export permits are on the Douglas Channel and on Haisla land.  Certainty over land is good for all parties.

To work and think creatively, away from the treaty table, is what has brought us this far.  This must continue no matter who becomes premier later this month.

Ellis Ross is the elected Chief Councillor of the Haisla Nation.