Treaties could be LNG deal-breaker
A Snuneymuxw lawyer and scholar is questioning the Steelhead LNG’s project based on the Pre-Confederation Treaty rights of Saanich area First Nations including Malahat Nation itself.
Douglas S. White is interim director of the Centre for Pre-Confederation Treaties and Reconciliation at Vancouver Island University. He also sits on his nation’s council. Kwulasultun is his Coast Salish name and Tliishin his Nuu-chah-nulth name.
White was quick to see the implications after the Malahat LNG project was announced in August.
“Based on reported negative reactions from within the Malahat Nation itself and from neighbouring First Nations, it became immediately clear that the Malahat Nation had not engaged with or secured consent from them. Further, the NEB export licenses were apparently issued without any notice or engagement with First Nations around Saanich Inlet.
He said those rights include “the duty to secure consent for proposals that would interfere with those rights.”
Companies like Steelhead LNG need to understand the treaties, he said. “It is hard to imagine companies authorizing billions of dollars on the capital costs of LNG projects with this total uncertainty.
“The court provides the answer to this uncertainty in its direction to how governments and companies should proceed even prior to Aboriginal Title being established – get First Nations consent.
“Premier Christy Clark remains committed to LNG, notwithstanding the total collapse of global energy economics over the past year and a half. She has built her government’s political and economic agenda around its success and has encouraged a gold rush mentality and speculative approach to LNG development across the province.
“However, oil was valued well over $100/barrel in the summer of 2014 and in recent months it has been below $30/barrel. The price of much of the LNG market is indexed to the price of oil, so this sudden drastic drop severely challenges LNG economics…
“Steelhead LNG says it remains on track for the Bamberton project and is continuing to pursue it. The Malahat Nation has gone through a change in government after the resignation of the former chief.
“While economic and political dynamics appear to be deeply unsettled around this proposal, what is clear in all of this is the need to approach decision making about the use of the lands and waters around the Salish Sea in ways that are consistent with the Treaty Rights and Aboriginal Title of the Indigenous Peoples that have called it home for millennia.