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.

Scary Science

The federal government’s conditional approval of the Petronas-led LNG project on Flora Banks, Lelu island was based in part on an environmental assessment that determined a terminal and suspension bridge across one side of Flora Bank would not harm fish stocks. According to Bruce Cheadle of The Canadian Press, pioneer sediment transport and sedimentation dynamics geologist Dr. Patrick McLaren has alleged that project contractors altered, manipulated and ignored data in an effort to prove the viability of their project. He is reported to have said, “I feel I could easily go to court in terms of what constitutes scientific fraud ” and “The concepts through all their work have the characteristics of scientific fraud.” While they have defended their scientists findings,  neither the project owners, nor the relevant government agencies has responded directly to a set of technical modelling questions that have been put forward in connection with the above allegations. Several First Nations and environmental groups have filed legal challenges against the project. One of these is based directly on a claim that the environmental assessment was flawed. The point here is that, while opinions among stakeholders on this project and this land may rightly be divided, the science upon which their opinions must rely has the obligation to be accountable, meticulous and transparent.

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