The Gitxsan Treaty Society is stopping all discussions about any proposed pipeline development because the federal and provincial governments did not withdraw their land offers with two other northwest B.C. First Nations before June 21.
The GTS set the deadline for National Aboriginal Day and negotiator Bev Clifton Percival said they are using pipeline development to get the governments’ attention because it appears to be Canada’s only interest at this point.
The governments have signed agreements in principle with the Kitselas and Kitsumkalum bands for land and rights that the Gitxsan said would be taken away from them.
“The ultimate goal is to have the Crown remove Gitxsan lands out of an AIP (agreement in principle) offer to a neighbouring group,” she said.
“They are Gitxsan lands, that is our ayookw or Gitxsan law to protect our lands, to protect our rights and title. The courts have recognized that we have unextinguished rights and titles so it’s according to our own laws and the laws of this country.”
There are currently three proposed natural gas pipeline projects that would go through Gitxsan territory. They include TransCanada’s Prince Rupert Transmission line, Spectra Energy’s Westcoast Connector Gas Transmission line and Pacific Northern Gas Looping Project.
Clifton Percival said she has not heard from either level of government.
Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister John Rustad said the B.C. Liberal government remains committed to the resolution of past grievances and bettering relationships with First Nations. He said they are also committed to discussing the opportunities provided by the development of the LNG Industry with First Nations and Aboriginal organizations. The provincial government is trying to achieve agreements that provide First Nations with the tools to participate and benefit from LNG opportunities.
“However, our work with First Nations regarding LNG won’t replace or supersede our ongoing efforts to develop treaties. Treaties are the highest form of reconciliation, addressing the comprehensive issues that exist in an ongoing government to government relationship.
“We believe shared territory disputes are best resolved by the First Nations themselves. We continue to encourage the Gitxsan, Kitselas and Kitsumkalum to work towards mutual resolution of any overlap issues they feel may exist,” Rustad said in an e-mail statement.
Stikine NDP MLA and aboriginal affairs and reconciliation critic Doug Donaldson said a responsible government would play a facilitator role.
“What kind of motivation is left if one First Nation has an agreement signed for them to try and resolve a shared boundary issue with a neighbouring First Nation that doesn’t have an agreement in place?”
Donaldson said this issue should have been dealt with already.
“The last thing we want to do is tie up more energy time and resources in the courts. That is what is going to happen if the B.C. Liberals doesn’t address the shared boundary issue.”