Editorial: District of Kitimat Council must endorse the Haisla’s conditions for Northern Gateway

The Haisla Nation today filed an extensive document with the Joint Review Panel outlining the nation’s concerns about the Northern Gateway project and, should Stephen Harper attempt to impose the pipeline, terminal and tankers on northwestern British Columbia, the Haisla have set down a detailed series of conditions that they say must be met in both the construction and operation of the project.

It is now clear that the real leadership on the issue of the Northern Gateway for the entire Kitimat region is found at the Haisla Administration building in Kitamaat Village, not at the District of Kitimat council chambers in town on Kingfisher Avenue.

The Haisla have lived in this region for thousands of years and the documents show the First Nation is taking that responsibility seriously, for the filing covers all the bases, planning, construction, operation and even the eventual decommissioning of the pipeline and terminal.

The District of Kitimat, on the other hand, has done absolutely nothing, preferring to wait until the increasingly discredited Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel issues a report that will likely be quickly shelved by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

While the District council has clung to its policy of neutrality, the Haisla have been proactive in looking to the future and practical in considering all the problems the region will face should the Northern Gateway go ahead.

This site has said in the past, that it matters little whether one supports or opposes the project, the District must begin now to plan for the inevitable problems that will arise once the Northern Gateway goes ahead.

A few weeks ago, on May 20, we pointed out that Bill C-38  had undermined the fence sitting by the District Council and called for the Council to take a position of “armed neutrality” and start working toward the day when the pipeline is probably forced upon the Kitimat region.

That was Strike One.

Now the Haisla have set out a document that not only outlines the deficiencies in the Enbridge plans but also sets outs stringent conditions for the project, should it go ahead.

That is Strike Two.

How many times do we have to say that it is time for the District to act on the Northern Gateway?

The next meeting of the District of Kitimat Council is on Tuesday, July 3, after the holiday weekend. At the meeting, council should introduce and pass a motion endorsing and supporting in principle the conditions for the Northern Gateway project as outlined by the Haisla Nation. Based on support in principle, the District should then do something it has never done, conduct its own study to identify future problems that both the Northern Gateway project and the LNG projects will bring to the District.

On a practical level, the Haisla conditions protect everyone in the Kitimat region, not just the people in Kitamaat Village. The Haisla conditions protect everyone in the District (including supporters of the project) not just now but in the future. While the District does not have the constitutional foundation of aboriginal rights and title, endorsement of the Haisla conditions will strengthen the entire region’s position in facing Enbridge and a stubborn federal government.

By supporting and endorsing the conditions set out by the Haisla Nation and by conducting its own studies, the District of Kitimat can prepare the region for the future of energy development.

Is the District Council going to wait for the metaphorical Strike Three and being forced out, while the federal government, the province of Alberta and the energy companies decide the District’s future?
Main story  Haisla Nation confirms it opposes Northern Gateway, demands Ottawa veto Enbridge pipeline; First Nation also outlines “minimum conditions” if Ottawa approves the project