Fort Nelson First Nation to Discuss Massive Shale Gas Water Licenses Nov. 13 in Vancouver

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Leaders of Fort Nelson First Nation from northeast BC are coming to Vancouver to share their concerns over 20 new long-term water withdrawal licenses the BC Liberal Government is considering issuing for shale gas operations in their traditional territory.

One such license alone – for which natural gas giant Encana is expecting imminent approval – would enable the company to dam and divert up to 3 BILLION litres a year of fresh water from the Fort Nelson River, which is described by elders as the lifeblood of their territory and identified by the community as a cultural protection zone. Under the current Water Act, withdrawal licenses are valid for up to 40 years.

“We are extremely concerned about a massive giveaway of water from our rivers and lakes, without any credible process identifying what the long-term impacts will be on our land, our families and on our community” says Fort Nelson First Nation Chief, Sharleen Wildeman. The chief will lead a 10-person delegation of council members, elders and band staff to Vancouver Tuesday Nov. 13 to take their concerns to the media and public.

The public is invited to attend a town hall dialogue featuring Chief, Council and community members from Fort Nelson First Nation – Tuesday evening at the Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House (800 E. Broadway). Doors open at 6:30 – event runs from 7-9:30 pm.

The evening, which is co-hosted by Council of Canadians and the Wilderness Committee, will also feature a presentation by leading independent water and energy expert Ben Parfitt of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Encana’s license application, which would involve constructing a 20-metre concrete barrier across the river, is just one of 20 similar applications throughout the region, which could ultimately represent over a trillion litres of fresh water being diverted to shale gas production in the long-term. According to community representatives, “The water will be permanently withdrawn and mixed with highly toxic chemicals for shale gas extraction. Ultimately the majority of the water will be disposed of via ‘deep oilfield injection’.”

They also point out that Fort Nelson First Nation has worked for years with the natural gas industry and government to provide economic opportunities for it members and the entire province through responsible resource development. But the plan to issue these water licenses has forced the community to draw a line in the sand. After pursuing every other avenue available to it – including repeated efforts to reach out to the Province, which have gone ignored – the community feels it must now appeal to the public for support to put a stop to this plan and ensure the public and First Nations are properly consulted in the development of a responsible water management plan.

They insist that plan must include a comprehensive suite of safeguards for water – such as adequate baseline studies, multi-year development plans submitted by industry, environmental and industry monitoring, cumulative impacts assessment, and the ability to designate culturally significant land and water resources as off-limits to development.

To learn more on this important topic and find out how you can get involved, come be a part of the discussion with Fort Nelson First Nation and independent water and energy experts this Tuesday evening at Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House.

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About Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.

4 thoughts on “Fort Nelson First Nation to Discuss Massive Shale Gas Water Licenses Nov. 13 in Vancouver

  1. Your second paragraph says that Encana plans to Dam the the River.

    That is 100% false and that being so ellimiates any legitimacy of you and your article.

  2. Wow! I wish I could have been there to support my Native Brothers and Sisters. Did the subject of “free” water from the Williston Reservoir come up? The Liberals lack of caring for Mother Earth, with a premier spouting support for the “family” is disgusting.

    Last Thursday was a night of very important events. At UVIC alone there were two significant forums. One dealt with GMOs and had Elizabeth May and Lana Popham, among others in attendance.

    On the other side of campus, CUPE and MJAC (the newly formed Victoria based Mining Justice Action Committee), had MiningWatch Canada’s Jen Moore and NDP MP Peter Julian supporting his motion to parliament, Bill C-323.

    This very important bill would allow citizens to hold Canadian Mining Companies accountable, under Canadian law, for the environmental and cultural destruction some of them are committing in developing countries (e.g. Guatemala, Philippines, Somalia).

    The Indigenous peoples of these countries are also losing their health, water, air and land due to these companies.

    We all need to work toward a healthier, more sustainable, planet for everyone!

    Greg Shea (Lake Cowichan)

  3. What a terrific night we had with Fort Nelson First Nation! Packed house, informative presentations and the leaders of Union of BC Indian Chiefs, BCAFN and Coastal First Nations were all in attendance and emphatically stated their support for the community in their battle to protect their sacred water.

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