By Shaun Thomas
The Northern View
May 02 2007
The Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams First Nations, collectively the Coast Tsimshian, said last week that they are calling on the Federal Government to halt phase II of the container port development and are preparing to undertake more direct actions meant to “not allow phase I to commence operations unless our concerns have been addressed.”
“There has been a build up of frustration that has been building up for close to a year now. When the port put us on notice that they were starting on phase II, we decided enough was enough. The government, which has the legal obligation to consult and deal with First Nations, has ignored us and has not come to the table. Our membership was getting frustrated with the leaders and ourselves so we have to take our own action. We have to do something on our own to get them back to the table and resolve phase I of this before we move on to phase II,” said Metlakatla Chief Harold Leighton.
“Phase I is currently being built on one of our large village sites, and phase II goes into two more village sites. They just want to go through with that without an agreement with the Coast Tsimshian. We can’t allow that.”
According to Leighton, the group will begin to make people aware of their plans this week, although he notes that the planned increase in activity is being done as a means of last resort for the Coast Tsimshian.
“This is not out doing. First Nations have been patient for two years, we have been waiting to try and find ways to resolve this issue, but nobody seems to want to come to the table with us,” he said.
We didn’t want to go to court, we don’t want to get involved in direct action, but we cannot allow construction or businesses to develop in our territory without talking to us. We are not going to stand for that any more.”
Currently the Coast Tsimshian and the Federal Government are in court to determine whether or not there was adequate consultation on phase I of the project. Following the rejection of a $7.65 million offer of accommodation on February 28, 2006, which was made to all First Nations, the Federal Government sent a letter to the Coast Tsimshian advising them that the phase I consultation process was complete. Prince Rupert Port Authority President and CEO Don Krusel says he is confident the courts will find that consultation was adequate.
“We are disappointed that the Coast Tsimshian have chosen to take Court action or threaten direct protest rather than respond to the Offer of Accommodation presented upon the completion of the consultation process,” said Krusel.
According to Rod Nelson with Transport Canada, the government has invited the First Nations to discuss the issue and holds high hopes for the phase I operations.
“The container port benefits everyone living in Prince Rupert, including First Nations, and it benefits the whole B.C. economy…We’re hoping the port at Fairview Terminal opens a second gateway to meet the needs of the Asia-Pacific.”
In the mean time, Krusel said the port is making every attempt to consult with First Nations on phase II of the project, including how to mitigate adverse impacts and ensure the communities benefit from the project.