PRINCE GEORGE, BC and PRINCE RUPERT, BC–(Marketwired – October 02, 2015) – Much has been said about the need to secure the social license and support from impacted First Nations for resource development on their land, but Eagle Spirit Energy has exceeded that minimum requirement, and has met with and signed Benefit Agreements with Nations who are not directly along the proposed route. The vision for the proposed project was based on having overwhelming First Nations support by those, directly or indirectly impacted by the route.
Support from the First Nations has not come easily. Chief of Nadleh Whut’en First Nation Martin Louie has stated, “Industries need to understand that the historic model of resource developments in BC are a thing of the past as a result of the Tsilhqot’in Decision. However, governments have in the past seemed dismissive of our rights as confirmed in these many court rulings, which is equally as concerning to us. It seems like we continue to be placed at odds with industry and government, yet we believe that this is not in the interest of our people or the Canadian economy. We know that through the [shared] lens of environmental protection and stewardship, a new way of doing business is on the horizon. We see this best exemplified by the Eagle Spirit model, and are willing to work together with them with a goal of prosperity for First Nations, and an expanded focus on environmental protection”.
“Despite our stance against oil projects in BC, the community has voted by a margin of 2-1 in favour of signing with the Eagle Spirit on an Exclusivity Agreement.”
The communities of Burns Lake, Stellat’en and Nadleh Whut’en First Nations (and the communities of the Gitxsan Nation, through their hereditary leaders) are an example of the “off-route communities who are engaged in the project through Exclusivity agreements which confirm their role in the environmental due diligence, project decision-making through the Chiefs’ Council, and rights of ownership.
According to Chief Martin Louie of the Nadleh Whut’en First Nation and Dakelh member, “Our communities are supporting the Eagle Spirit project through an Environmental lens. The Chiefs have come together as leaders committed to the opportunity of developing a world-class environmental model, while continuing to provide due diligence over this project through Traditional Law and Environmental Stewardship. As meaningful participants and owners of the proposed project, we know that our economic future is best served by ensuring that oil can reach markets abroad in the safest way possible.”
In a September 29, 2015 letter to Prime Minister Harper, and Premiers Clark, Notley and Wall, the members of the Chief’s Council states, “we have sent the message to those governments that our permission to proceed on any project in our territory, is ours to grant or deny, and that we are united in our support for moving forward with Eagle Spirit project based on our participation at all levels. At the end of the day, it will be up to us to determine the viability of this project as it relates to the environmental protection, as well as how it positively impacts our communities and people.“
According to Gitxsan Hereditary Chief Art Matthews, “The time for talking is over. Our people need opportunities now. And we as the stewards of the land for millennia, we will make sure this pipeline can be built through our traditional territory safely, respecting our Traditional Laws, or it won’t be built at all. But we will not sit idle and watch Bitumen travel along our sacred Skeena River by rail, nor are we willing to sit on the side lines and accept beads and trinkets from those who do business on our lands.“
Chief Dan George of the Burns Lake First Nation stated, “one of our primary reasons for supporting this project is because of the fact that CN Rail is hauling 120,000 cars of Bitumen every year through our communities and along our rivers, and they are planning to build another 300,000 more cars. Burns Lake and our community are located along the railway and we don’t want another Lac Magentique…our community would be destroyed, along with the people in it.”
“We continue to stand strong in opposition of the Enbridge Pipeline Project, and the transportation of bitumen through our territories, by train or any other means”, added Chief Martin Louie. “The Eagle Spirit model gives us the greatest amount of assurance, and provides us with a seat at the table as owners and orchestrators of our own destiny. My community is very concerned about the environment, and I am committed to, as are the other Chiefs involved, the protection of our lands while ensuring the future prosperity of our people. The path forward will be difficult but by understanding our differences [between First Nations, Industry and Governments] and working towards uniting our different perspectives, we can secure a future with a more healthy environment for all of our children to enjoy.”
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