B.C. Liberal MLA John Rustad included Kitimat on his week long tour in the area, which included stops in Prince Rupert and Terrace, among other communities.
Rustad, the government’s Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation minister, was meeting with local government leaders, including the Haisla Nation Council and Kitimat Council to discuss the opportunities in the region.
Rustad said building relationships is the big role for him, when he spoke to the Sentinel on Friday.
“We’re out trying to continue and further the relationships that we have,” he said, saying he wants to understand the interests of area First Nations and how the government can work with that.
Talking about training and jobs opportunities in relation to proposed liquefied natural gas projects is on the agenda of his discussions, he said.
“I look at the projects coming forward as a sort of symbiotic relationship, we need to work hand-in-hand, we need to work in partnership,” he said. “When you look at the potential across here, there’s an enormous opportunity for British Columbia, we want to make sure there’s the shared prosperity for aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike.”
Rustad added that there have to be opportunities to build partnerships if there’s to be such big developments.
On the subject of treaties, which Haisla Nation Council Chief Councillor Ellis Ross said haven’t been effective for his community, Rustad said his ministry is engaged in both treaty and non-treaty arrangements throughout the province, but didn’t single out any particular discussion happening with the Haisla.
“There’s a host of agreements we try to put in place that give us the ability to work government to government,” he said.
Rustad said his tour is part of an ongoing process, and he’ll hold similar tours in other parts of B.C., and that LNG is the headlining issue.
“LNG obviously is that enormous opportunity we want to see advanced and I think what I’ve heard from First Nations throughout the area is they’re very interested in it, they’re very keen on what that could bring, and those opportunities,” he said.
In a government media release, using the launch of the BC Jobs Plan as a starting point, they say the province has reached 19 non-treaty agreements since 2011, and they have committed to reaching 10 more in the next two years.