FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Adding yet another twist to a lengthy environmental assessment that has already been delayed several times, hereditary chiefs of two northwest BC First Nations are seeking to extend it another 4 months.
The Vancouver Sun reports the Chiefs have filed a written request with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency for more consultation time in order to address their concerns, about the Pacific Northwest LNG project, led by Malaysian state-controlled Petronas.
They argue while there’s been consultation with councils of six area Indian Act bands, it has not extended to the hereditary tribes and houses, the proper land and aboriginal rights holders, whose aboriginal rights and titles will potentially be infringed by the project.
Robin Junger, an aboriginal and environmental law specialist, has told the Sun for anybody to just simply assume a band represents a First Nation on rights and title issues, is a dangerous proposition.
He says, it may be true in some cases, but generally the right rests with the collective grouping of people with a common language and culture, and only when the “collective people” has given authority to the band council can it speak on their behalf.
It was early last fall the Allied Tribes of Lax Kw’alaams filed a court claim for title to Lelu Island and the Flora Bank in the Port of Prince Rupert, arguing consortium terminal construction plans in the region interfere with aboriginal fishing rights.
Having confirmed the consortium had satisfied its final information request, at last word the regulatory agency was finalizing a draft report, which has already concluded the project won’t harm the juvenile salmon habitat in Flora Bank located adjacent to the project’s Lelu Island site.
However, the CEAA report has also concluded it would significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions, another key unresolved issue, to be evaluated and decided by the federal government, after it receives the final draft report, perhaps as early as mid-September, barring another delay in the review process
A CEAA spokesperson has confirmed it will take into account recent submissions, but, has not yet said whether this new review extension request is being considered.