FrackSite_Aerial_01.jpg

B.C. Pulls About-Face After First Nations Call Removal of Gas Development Environmental Assessment a ‘Declaration of War’

B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak has reversed and apologized for excluding First Nations from two amendments that would eliminate the province’s mandatory environmental assessment of gas developments and ski resorts.

As DeSmog Canada recently reported, the Orders in Council were passed without public consultation and would exclude major natural gas processing facilities and resorts from undergoing a standard environmental review and public consultation process.

“The rescindment is a direct result of backlash from the Fort Nelson First Nation (FNFN)," Anna Johnston, staff counsel with West Coast Environmental Law Association, told DeSmog Canada. "Yesterday, at an LNG Summit hosted by the FNFN, they ‘drummed out’ government representatives due to the provincial government’s failure to consult with them on the Orders.”

B.C. officials were escorted from the forum on liquefied natural gas (LNG) after news of the eliminated environment assessments broke. At the forum, called “Striking a Balance,” Chief Sharleen Gale of the FNFN asked B.C. government officials to leave the room, saying “what I learned from my elders is you treat people kind. You treat people with respect…even when they’re stabbing you in the back.”

“So I respectfully ask government to please remove yourself from the room. We’re going to ask industry to stay.”

A video of the expulsion can be seen below.

The provincial government has been undergoing “serious environmental deregulation,” said Johnston, pointing to Bill 4, the Park Amendment Act, as further evidence.

“Their rescinding the Orders indicates that the Minister of Environment has heard the message loud and clear that the government cannot continue to sneak through changes to environmental laws that will significantly impact British Columbians without first consulting them,” Johnston told DeSmog Canada.

“Public participation is essential to responsible environmental decision-making, including the process of making the laws that protect our environment and our communities. Hopefully, the government has learned that next time, it must properly consult stakeholders, environmental groups and First Nations before attempting any further changes to our environmental safety net.”  

Yesterday Chief Terry Teegee of the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council told West Coast Native News First Nations were “blindsided” by the changes. “There was no consultation as far as changing that policy.”

An executive with the First Nations Summit, Cheryl Casmier, said the revisions were “another unacceptable example of government once again attempting to water down and minimize its consultation and accommodation obligations with our communities.”

First Nations expressed concern decisions that would impact land use were being made without proper consultation.

Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs told West Coast Native News, “in a stunningly stupid move, the province has effectively declared war on all B.C. First Nations and jeopardized all LNG discussions throughout the entire province of B.C.”

Minister Polak made this statement in a B.C. government press release:

“I would like to acknowledge First Nations concerns about amendments to the Reviewable Projects Regulation under the Environmental Assessment Act. Our government apologizes for failing to discuss the amendment with First Nations prior to its approval.

Our government is committed to a strong, respectful and productive relationship with First Nations. That is why we will rescind the amendment that would have removed the requirement for an environmental assessment for sweet gas facilities and destination resorts, until we have undertaken discussions with First Nations. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) has been made aware of this decision, and respects the need for our government to have further discussions with First Nations.

Our government sees a significant value in continuing to develop a Government to Government relationship with all First Nations. We remain actively engaged with First Nations in northeastern British Columbia, including shared decision making that respects the environment, First Nation values, and Treaty 8 and its associated rights.”

Image Credit: Jeremy S. Williams, Wilderness Committee

New title

You’ve read all the way to the bottom of this article. That makes you some serious Narwhal material.

And since you’re here, we have a favour to ask. Our independent, ad-free journalism is made possible because the people who value our work also support it (did we mention our stories are free for all to read, not just those who can afford to pay?).

As a non-profit, reader-funded news organization, our goal isn’t to sell advertising or to please corporate bigwigs — it’s to bring evidence-based news and analysis to the surface for all Canadians. And at a time when most news organizations have been laying off reporters, we’ve hired eight journalists over the past year.

Not only are we filling a void in environment coverage, but we’re also telling stories differently — by centring Indigenous voices, by building community and by doing it all as a people-powered, non-profit outlet supported by more than 2,500 members

The truth is we wouldn’t be here without you. Every single one of you who reads and shares our articles is a crucial part of building a new model for Canadian journalism that puts people before profit.

We know that these days the world’s problems can feel a *touch* overwhelming. It’s easy to feel like what we do doesn’t make any difference, but becoming a member of The Narwhal is one small way you truly can make a difference.

We’ve drafted a plan to make 2021 our biggest year yet, but we need your support to make it all happen.

If you believe news organizations should report to their readers, not advertisers or shareholders, please become a monthly member of The Narwhal today for any amount you can afford.

Carol Linnitt is a journalist, editor, illustrator and co-founder of The Narwhal. Carol has been reporting on energy and environmental…

‘Localized harassment’: RCMP patrol Wet’suwet’en territory despite UN calls for withdrawal

On Valentine’s Day, a small group of Wet’suwet’en people gathered outside a Coastal GasLink pipeline work camp in northwest B.C. to hold a ceremony to...

Continue reading

Recent Posts

Help power our ad-free, non‑profit journalism
Get The Narwhal in your inbox!

People always tell us they love our newsletter. Find out yourself with a weekly dose of our ad‑free, independent journalism