Last Friday, the Moricetown Band and the Office of the Wet’suwet’en hosted a community information session for negotiators to outline benefits of the proposed 463-kilometre Pacific Trail Pipeline project.
However, some members, including Unist’ot’en representatives, were not interested in anything offered and at times the crowd determined the direction of the session.
Duane Mitchell began the meeting by detailing the meeting’s purpose.
“What we’re here for is to gather information,” Mitchell said.
“This helps us decide where we go from here.”
Robert Metsc with Havlik Metsc Ltd., a firm specializing in negotiating with First Nations since 1993, began his presentation by letting the audience know who he was representing.
“I am lead negotiator for the First Nations Limited Partnership, here to speak for the 15 First Nations that have signed the limited partnership agreement,” Metsc said.
The FNLP was signed by 15 nations before 2009 including, the Haisla, Lax Kw’alaams, Metlakatla, Kitselas and Skin Tyee Nations.
The Wet’suwet’en have yet to agree to terms.
Metsc and fellow presenter Albert Hudec were hired to formalize an agreement between all interested parties concerning the proposed PTP pipeline, which stretches from Summit Lake, B.C. to the Kitimat LNG plant.
EOG Resources Canada Inc., Apache Canada Ltd. and Encana Corporation are the industry signees to the PTP FNLP agreement.
“Our job was to get the most benefits for the First Nations and to do that we need to separate the benefits from the politics.”
Metsc moved on to environmental and export certificates that have already been issued by B.C.
“At this point, they tend to be more or less rubber stamped by the province,” Metsc said.
Environmental assessment on the area the proposed PTP project may cross started in 2005.
The B.C. government approved the pipeline in 2008 and Canada approved the project in 2009.
Immediately upon signing the agreement the Wet’suwet’en would receive $313,200, which is 10.44 per cent of the $3,000,000 the B.C. government invested in the FNLP.
The $2,686,800 difference having already been delivered to FNLP signees.
Participants at the information session were told the potential cash flow to FNLP signees, estimated over 30 years, is $200 million.
That means nearly $21 million would land in Wet’suwet’en coffers.
Several community members stood up to voice their concerns about the FNLP agreement and PTP project.
“One thing that has to be learned about our government is the title holders are the hereditary chiefs,” Stanley Morris, Wet’suwet’en chief, said.
“We have to be negotiated with.”
Metsc mentioned that no permits are needed for the PTP project to move ahead and the only reason construction didn’t start when the environmental permits were issued was the Haisla Nation and other involved parties didn’t have the start-up capital.
“There are no permits on Wet’suwet’en territory right now,” Mike Ridsdale, Office of the Wet’suwet’en environmental assessment coordinator, said in response.
Warner Naziel, who made an hours-long trip from a blockade against PTP on Unitst’ot’en territory, let the negotiators know how 50 per cent of the proposed PTP pipeline crosses their land.
“Any industry or government has to have meaningful consultation with the people, that’s hereditary chiefs and their membership, not Bands or Tribal Councils,” Naziel said.
Five-hundred conditions are outlined in the B.C. Environmental Assessment package, which all industrial projects must abide, but Dave deWit, Office of the Wet’suwet’en natural resource manager, says that’s not enough.
“Above and beyond the 500 conditions is the fact there’s no process to review a company’s compliance with those conditions,” deWit said.
“For us there wasn’t enough information in the environmental assessment to determine potential environmental impacts of these projects.
“We’re attempting to create that process currently.”
deWit added that the environmental research was conducted in 2006, a dry year and as such not indicative of an average salmon population.
“Nature is a dynamic system and you can’t take an environmental snapshot in time and base a decision on that snapshot.”