Friday, March 11, 2016

Cabinet Minister John Rustad speaks to Tsimshian agreement, Lelu Island project and other First Nations issues

Aboriginal Relations Minister John Rustad
tackled a range of issues during an
appearance on the Voice of BC program
with Vaughn Palmer
John Rustad, the Province's Minister for Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation waded into the topic of the Pacific NorthWest LNG controversies on Thursday evening, appearing on the Voice of BC program with Vaughn Palmer.

The first topic from the hour long program of interest for the North Coast was a review of this weeks announcement of the signing of agreement between the Province and the Tsimshian First Nation. With the Minister outlining some of the training opportunities that the agreement and pathway program is going to provide.

"What is it that we can do with this training that will match the challenges that you have, but also put your people into the positions that you are hoping to be able to achieve for your nation and where the interests lie, it's been a very unique approach that we've taken across the North with our training program and we're building on the success we have had with the Tsimshian Nations through the Pathways to Success"

Palmer and Rustad also explored some of the discussions between the Province and Federal governments, covering a range of topics related to the Ministers files and how the two governments need to address some of the key issues of shared interest.

The also two covered a number of other items of concern, tackling some controversies related to the treaty process, as well as taking an extended look at the process ahead for the Missing and Murdered Women's inquiry.

The Minister offered up some insight as to the changes in the education curriculum related to First Nations issues, which will be more reflective of Aboriginal history, noting that the recent engagement of the Truth and Reconciliation sessions provided for much of the push towards those changes.

The controversial Site C development project took up a segment of the discussion as well, which set the tone for a conversation on the Pacific NorthWest LNG project which comes up at the forty one minute of the program.

Vaughn Palmer set up that segment with the following question:  "So, on one hand you're working with people up north on LNG and on the other hand you've got a proposed site for a terminal that is basically blockaded"

Minister Rustad then provided a fairly comprehensive review of the situation to date and what the Liberal government would like to see as the outcome.

"We are engaged very much with the Tsimshian Nations, the ones that claim title in that area, we have a number of agreements to date in place, and just broadly speaking across the North when you're talking about Liquefied Natural Gas we have at least one pipeline agreement with virtually every nation.  

We have sixty two agreements that have been signed in terms of the pipes, we've got agreements for site locations on the coast, we've got agreements with the Coastal nations around this, we have  of course what we talked about early in Treaty Eight in terms of the benefits for the gas extraction, there is broad, broad support for liquefied Natural Gas and for the opportunity of moving gas.

So, specifically on Lelu Island, we are very much engaged with the nations in the Prince Rupert area as well as the rest of the Tsimshian nations, trying to work this issue through. One of the biggest things we need to do is to make sure that people understand what this is, and what it isn't. 

There's a lot of mis-information out there. There has been a tremendous amount of work that was done by the independent scientists on the project that were hired for this, the federal scientists of course, as well as the Tsimshian environmental stewardship group that came together and did their own science on this.

All three of these groups that came and looked at this, said there is no significant impact on salmon to a project that would go forward on Lelu Island, and so like I say, there's a tremendous amount of information that is out there.  We just need to make sure that people understand what the science is as well as of course what other people are saying about it, and eventually as we work and engage with the communities, we feel that because there is the science supports this, it will be a project that will end up going forward.

And at the end of the day I can tell you this, personally I'm not interested in seeing a project going forward that would have a significant impact on salmon, there's no way that we want to see the salmon run in the Skeena River put at risk. If the science had of come out and said Houston we've got a problem, I wouldn't be out there supporting it and promoting it, but the fact is the science has come out and been very clear that there is no significant impact on the salmon in the Skeena and that's why it's easy for me to go out and talk about this.

And I think it's also why the Tsimshian Environmental Stewardship Group is also going out to do the same thing to talk about the science and what they found."

Vaughn Palmer then followed up on the occupation of Lelu Island and how the occupation group is perceived as a hold out group within a First Nation community and how like many communities there isn't consensus there.

The Minister drew a comparison to a situation in Tsawwassen and a development that First Nation is currently working on, which did not come up with unanimous support but moved forward anyways.

When he brought it back to the Lelu Island situation, he noted the need for accurate information and some of the misunderstandings on the survey work of Lelu Island .

"I'll give you an example, so up in the Flora Bank area off of Lelu Island there was a bunch of work that crews were doing and one of the things they did was to do a bunch of sonar work around through the area. What they did around this was a cable was attached from the land and going out as they went through and did this, well the Nation or the some of the people that were out on the protest thought that they were running high voltage electricity to shock the fish that were in that area and they were irate about this.

Well, it's information, people need to have access to the information about what is really going on and how information is collected and what that information looks like"

The remainder of the program involved topics related to Decisions from the Supreme Court, Aboriginal Title, Veto powers over resource development and other issues that need to be addressed, as well as the role of former National Chief Shawn Atleo as part of the provincial engagement.

You can review the full program below, selections from the archives of program can be found on our Darcy McGee political portal here.

More background on the lengthy engagement process of the Pacific NorthWest LNG project can be reviewed here.

For more background on developments from the British Columbia Legislature see our archive page here.

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