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Energy consortium’s work with Indigenous partners is a blueprint for government and industry, says one Haisla councillor

KITIMAT — LNG Canada “set a new standard” for respectful consultation with First Nations, the deputy chief councillor of the Haisla Nation says about the energy consortium behind the green lit mega-project that is slated to be the first liquefied natural gas export terminal on B.C.’s coast.

Brenda Duncan’s comments came as Canada said it would not appeal the Federal Court of Appeal decision that axed cabinet approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion bid. Instead, the government announced Wednesday it would appoint Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci to oversee a new round of consultations with Indigenous communities.

What LNG Canada did right in its multi-year consultation was engage consistently and early with community members and to sincerely listen and accommodate, Duncan said during an interview in Kitamaat Village, about 15 kilometres south of Kitimat. LNG Canada plans to build its terminal on the traditional territory of the Haisla Nation, across the Kitimat Arm of the Douglas Channel.

“We always hear about ‘nation building,’ and even before reconciliation became a term, or a buzz word, LNG Canada treated us as stewards of this land and as the landlords. … We’re very respectful of that,” Duncan said. The longtime councillor knew by Monday that the consortium would proceed with its investment. But she said it didn’t quite hit her until Tuesday morning, when she watched Haisla Chief Councillor Crystal Smith, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier John Horgan and others announce the historic decision on TV. It made for an emotional day, when some members greeted each other in the morning with tears of joy, Duncan said.

“We’ve been on the outside looking in at economic development in our territory for decades. It’s always been touted that Kitimat’s been built on industry. Our ancestors have been here for time immemorial, and we’ve been spectators to industry,” she said.

“When LNG Canada first engaged with us, it was the first time ever that we were seen as partners — that we were treated as partners. And we are now participants in our own economy. It means a lot.” Haisla Deputy Chief Councillor Brenda Duncan said LNG Canada’s years of consultation efforts offer a blueprint for future engagement of First Nations by industry and government alike. Matt Robinson / PNG The benefits agreement between LNG Canada and the Haisla is known to its members, but not the broader public, Duncan said. But she could describe its effects.

“The benefits and revenue that it provides us … we’re able to empower a new generation of Haisla,” she said. “Whatever career aspirations our members have, we finally have the ability and the autonomy to do that.”

Staff at Natural Resources Canada said in a written statement that they welcomed the views of the Haisla Nation on consultations around LNG Canada and consistently seek to build on lessons learned.

Meanwhile, the elected councils of all 20 First Nations along the pipeline that will feed LNG Canada’s export terminal have reached agreements with the proponents of that project, which also got the go-ahead this week.

Karen Ogen-Toews, a former chief of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and CEO of the First Nations LNG Alliance of B.C., said in a news release that Trans Canada Corporation and Coastal GasLink had worked with the nations to protect the environment around the pipeline.

“And those agreements also mean training, education, jobs, business opportunities, and careers,” she said. “Imagine what these can do for First Nations communities where unemployment now can be running at 50 and 60 and 70 per cent.”

But the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, whose […]

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