Tsartlip First Nation’s Chief is calling out neighbouring Malahat First Nation and its partners, describing their process for developing a floating liquid natural gas facility on the Bamberton shoreline “disrespectful and insulting.”
Chief Don Tom said in a press release that his Nation “strongly opposes the process chosen by Malahat First Nation, Steelhead LNG and their Board of Directors who are aware of Tsartlip First Nations presence in the Saanich Inlet for countless generations.”
Tom said his band deserves to be consulted and made it clear that their approval will be needed for work to proceed.
“Tsartlip has requested a meeting with Steelhead LNG and it will take place on Sept. 11. We intend on making it clear that Tsartlip First Nation’s approval will be required for any LNG project to proceed,” Tom said. “We oppose the aggressive approach taken by Steelhead LNG and their Board of Directors by publicly announcing the project prior to any discussions with the Tsartlip community.”
Tsartlip territory is primarily on the eastern shore of the Saanich Peninsula in Brentwood Bay, but the First Nation also owns a reserve directly south of the proposed LNG facility location.
“Tsartlip takes tremendous pride in protecting all aspects of our community and will not subject our people to the risks around pipelines and LNG terminals; so far their process can be characterized as disrespectful and insulting,” Tom said.
The Island Gas Connector Project, built by Oklahoma-based company Williams, would transport the gas 75 kilometres undersea from Washington State to the proposed Malahat floating natural gas liquefaction and export facility. From there it would travel through a land-based pipeline to the proposed Huu-ay-aht First Nations LNG facility at Sarita Bay, 75km southwest of Port Alberni.
Tom said Steelhead LNG appears to be using a “cookie cutter” approach in dealing with First Nations.
“This approach will not work with Tsartlip. We take offence to the aggressive pursuit of Malahat LNG without respectful acknowledgment of our Territory,” said the release.
In the Sept. 1 pipeline partnership announcement Steelhead LNG and Williams promised to “undertake an extensive consultation and engagement process with potentially affected Canadian Aboriginal groups, United States Tribes, landowners, local stakeholders and communities.”
While the Tsartlip First Nation has taken them up on their offer to talk, the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s board of directors is still debating what to do.
After more than an hour of discussion Wednesday night, the board was at a stalemate about how to proceed, after receiving a letter from Steelhead LNG and Williams offering a meeting. Some directors wanted the companies to appear as a delegation and others wanted the political upheaval at the Malahat First Nation to settle down and a new chief and council elected before the CVRD weighs in.
No decision has been made.