The Haisla First Nation is the only First Nation not to have signed a project agreement with TransCanada for the go-ahead to build the Coastal GasLink pipeline through Haisla territory.
Should LNG Canada receive a positive Final Investment Decision from its joint venture partners, TransCanada will construct the 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline to transport natural gas from northeast B.C. to Kitimat where it will be liquefied and loaded onto ships for export.
TransCanada senior communications specialist Jacquelynn Benson said discussions with First Nations groups regarding project agreements are confidential, precluding TransCanada from discussing details about the negotiations between TransCanada and the Haisla Nation Council.
“I can confirm that there is overwhelming support for the Coastal GasLink project with 95 per cent of First Nations project agreements already signed to date. We are confident that our ongoing consultation process will help us continue to maintain our strong relationships with First Nations groups,” said Benson.
She said the project team has been working with First Nations and local communities along the Coastal GasLink route for more than five years.
She added that the discussions with First Nations have addressed a range of issues, including addressing important economic benefits for First Nations groups looking for jobs, contracting opportunities and education and skills training for their communities.
“To date, more than one-third of all the work completed on the project has been conducted by Indigenous people,” said Benson.
The Haisla First Nation’s response was equally muted, HNC spokesperson Cameron Orr saying the Haisla Nation Council “remains fully committed to the support and success of Liquefied Natural Gas development in Haisla territory.”
“We will continue to work with the Coastal GasLink project to provide opportunities that provide lasting benefits to all Haisla members and to the Northwest region,” said Orr on behalf of the HNC.
The Haisla are not one of the First Nations listed on Coastal GasLink’s website as having signed a project agreement.
The list of 13 First Nations who have signed project agreements includes the Kitselas First Nation, Burns Lake Indian Band, Skin Tyee First Nation and the Wet’suwet’en First Nation.
There is still resistance from a breakaway group of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, who established the gated camp on the route that the proposed pipeline will follow.
In the case of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, however, TransCanada is investigating an alternate route which starts about 21 km southwest of Burns Lake and ends 25 km south of Houston, which will be approximately 41 km long and runs about 3.5 km south of the approved route.
TransCanada has said it will consider submitting an application to the Environmental Assessment Office and the BC Oil and Gas Commission to move the pipeline once the company has completed all of the necessary fieldwork.
An LNG Canada spokesperson said LNG Canada “doesn’t comment on another company’s business” and that that philosophy extends to TransCanada and Coastal GasLink as well.
First Nations LNG Alliance spokesperson Donald MacLachlan said the Alliance would also not be commenting on the absence of a project agreement between TransCanada and the HNC.
“If there’s an official position, it’s a general one – each First Nation makes its own decisions on resource issues, and rightly so,” said MacLachlan.
The HNC has also not signed Natural Gas Benefits Agreement with the provincial government, part of the government’s approach to partnering with First Nations on liquefied natural gas (LNG) opportunities.
Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation spokesperson Ted Hill said the province is “well advanced in its negotiations with Haisla Nation for a benefits agreement related to the LNG Canada project”, which would include benefits with the associated Coastal Gaslink pipeline.
“The province has a good working relationship with the Haisla Nation and we are committed to concluding agreements that ensure the community benefits from the jobs, business opportunities, increased revenue and environmental stewardship roles that these projects will bring,” said Hill.
“The province is working government-to-government with the Haisla Nation and the timing and pace of our negotiations for the LNG Canada/Coastal Gaslink projects are being done on a mutually agreed timeframe.
“Our respectful process highlights that it is more important to get the right agreement in the right manner, not just an agreement done quickly.”
The province and the HNC have already completed a number of agreements related to LNG development, including a benefits agreement for the Kitimat LNG’s Pacific Trail Pipeline Project and a unique jurisdictional agreement for the proposed Kitimat LNG facility proposed for Haisla reserve lands.