What is Consultation?

chiefsThere are presently 3 applications for judicial review brought by Gitwilgyoots Tribe, Gitanyow Tribe and by and SkeenaWild Conservation Trust in connection with the PETRONAS/ Northern Gateway investment proposal on Lelu Island. In considering the reasonableness and good faith of the government’s decision to proceed with this development, it seems clear from the Federal Appeal’s court decision on the matter of the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project that the Crown is obliged to consult with First Nations on whose territories economic developments take place before proceeding with any decision making.  There are two specific issues that need to be resolved: –

1. Who should be consulted which boils down to whose authority the Court recognizes over the lands occupied by the Gitwilgyoots and the Gitanyow tribes. In this matter  the Lax Kw’alaams Band Council has launched a legal challenge to the tribal authority of hereditary chief Simogyet Yahaan.

2. What does meaningful consultation amount to – As David P. Ball notes in a Metro Vancouver article, when asked what ‘meaningful consultation’ would look like Chief Malii of the Gitanyow replied: “It means you have to really listen to the aboriginal group, take into account what they’re saying, and you have a discussion … It’s not just having a meeting or writing a letter; it’s an actual exchange.”

The first point goes to the heart of First Nations autonomy as Band Council’s are appointed under the auspices of Canadian legislation, while hereditary leadership in inherent to the native order and relationship with this land. The second point, which is the subject of this post, goes to the heart of the matter of any possible reconciliation with the First peoples on our common abode. It seems to be a matter of good faith and common sense, that recognition of the First Nations should involve some semblance of respect for their jurisdiction.  Faith and sense which the details of the Tribes’ applications for judicial review indicate the Crown may not have displayed!


Image: http://theecoreport.com/legal-challenges-petronas-lng-project

Chief Yahaan Speaks

Video published on October 2015

On October 13, 2016 I emailed Chief Yahaan of the Gitwilgyoots tribe of the Lax Kw’alaams , and leader of the Lelu Island occupation, a question. I had spoken to him by phone before but had only had minimal email communications. This recent email contact took place before the federal government approved the environmental review for the project. We were in the midst of reports and rumours that PETRONAS might consider moving their LNG plant further north, to a location with less potential for direct harm to the salmon ecology. I put it like this, “Chief, … I am wondering about your own perspective on moving the plant off the island, to the North somewhere as rumoured … is this an acceptable compromise for you and your people, or is it still a NO!… as it just shifts the burden to another area and another community”. His answer was as follows, “I would like to see environmental areas protected and this particular project goes against that  … what I would like to see is more tech work done on the emissions from the plant”. The Chief,makes it clear that beyond the potential of specific damage to the Flora Banks estuary, there is the potential for a more general damage to the environment that needs to be evaluated properly. He seems to be  indicating an openness to research on emissions. He seems to be asking for more science, which brings me to the question of the integrity of the science  being applied and the possibility that the knowledge currently in play is the product of a scary science.