Aboriginal Leaders from Northern B.C. Call for Action
Prince George, B.C. – On the eve of a series of meetings with the Provincial government, several Aboriginal leaders from across Northern B.C. have issued an open letter to the Premier of B.C.
In an open letter to the Premier, the leaders are calling for a change to what it labels the “narrow and short-sighted approach” to consultation with First Nations.
The leaders say while all First Nations “want to increase economic opportunity for their communities” the government is ignoring the cumulative effects of development on their traditional territories. They point to the development of the Site C dam as one example of a project that is taking place in a region already stressed by oil and gas development.
“The cumulative impacts from developments in our territories threaten our values, our rights, and our future” reads the letter.
The Chiefs also say the Environmental Assessment process is “broken” saying too often “government allows industry to set the agenda for developments in our territories, and our issues, concerns, and rights are an afterthought. We are not properly consulted on the strategic decisions that define the future of our lands, waters, and other resources.” As an example, the Chiefs point to the planned Pacific Northwest LNG plant on Lelu Island off Prince Rupert.
The letter also points out that despite winning a series of legal challenges which confirm their treaty rights “governments refuse to acknowledge the significance of those victories. They deny our role in managing our territories and attempt to minimize the effect of those legal decisions.”
Premier Clark says she has long believed First Nations were not getting their fair share of the benefits of resource development, ” I think British Columbia has done a great job of extracting resources over the last couple of hundred years, but we haven’t done a great job of sharing with First Nations fairly. Consulting with First Nations is part of that, and making sure the result of that consultation is delivering those benefits, those financial benefits, those employment benefits to First Nations is the other part.”
The Chiefs reiterate that they are not opposing all development ” we are often leaders in securing appropriate development that benefits not only our communities, but also all British Columbians.”
The Aboriginal leaders will meet this afternoon for a strategy session to prepare for the meetings with the Premier and Cabinet which are slated to start tomorrow.