First Nations react to LNG approvals with highway blockade

Highway 16 blockade on Saturday (Photo submitted)
Highway 16 blockade on Saturday (Photo submitted)

A group of 65 Gitxsan First Nations and supporters, led by several hereditary chiefs, showed up on an icy December Saturday to block Highway 16, near Hazelton. They were peacefully registering their opposition to the recent granting of 3 new environmental certificates for proposed LNG infrastructure in northern BC – including two pipelines that would transit Gitxsan territory and an LNG plant that threatens Skeena River salmon stocks.

Photo submitted
Photo submitted

The demonstration was led by the hereditary chiefs who, this past summer, constructed a camp named Madii Lii in the path of several proposed pipelines designed to carry fracked shale gas from northeast BC to LNG plants near Prince Rupert. The camp is part of a growing movement of hereditary and grassroots First Nations in various northern territories who are standing up against proposed LNG development – including the Unist’ot’en camp in the path of several Kitimat-bound pipelines.

The provincial approval of more LNG infrastructure by the Clark government in late November spurred the group to take to the streets this past weekend. The projects approved include Malaysian energy giant Petronas’ proposed pipeline and LNG plant on Lelu Island, in the heart of the Skeena Estuary. The project has drawn criticism from fisheries experts and First Nations over its potentially catastrophic impacts on juvenile salmon. Also approved was Spectra’s planned Westcoast Connector pipeline.

Spookw hereditary chief Guuhadakwa (Norm Stephens) declared in a press release Saturday:

[quote]The Gitxsan people have relied on the Salmon for thousands of years. The importance of the salmon to the Gitxsan people far out weighs any of the financial benefits that are and may be offered in the future for these LNG pipelines. The risk to the salmon is far to great to allow any pipelines to cross our territories and none will. We will not loose the salmon on our watch.[/quote]

But LNG opponents have something to celebrate as well, since Petronas, just one week after receiving its environmental certificates, announced late last week that it is putting its projects on hold – due to the rapidly deteriorating economic fundamentals of the global LNG market. Plunging oil prices are negatively affecting Asian LNG rates, while intense competition and a growing global glut of LNG supply mean it’s harder for companies like Petronas to see a profit from the massive investment they would need to make in BC LNG.

The other recently approved pipeline being protested by the Gitxsan on Saturday, Spectra’s Westcoast Connector, also faces an uncertain future, as British giant BG Group has been getting cold feet about the Prince Rupert LNG plant that Spectra’s pipeline is intended to supply.

With both tough economic hurdles to face and growing First Nations opposition, it appears the bloom is off  the rose for BC’s once-vaunted LNG industry.


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.

2 thoughts on “First Nations react to LNG approvals with highway blockade

  1. there is so much more truth, beauty, value to a clean respected planet than ravaging our planet to make a few morally bankrupt soulless men wealthy.

    indigenous people lived and thrived WITHOUT any modern amenities for, literally, close to a million years. the story of our species, homo sapiens, is one of living with the land. this modern culture of ruthless exploitation is an aberration and runs contrary to natural law which requires ecological equilibrium…..indigenous people have done fine without capitalist luxuries. why stop now? why be bought out for a few cheap beads and trinkets when the true value of this earth is to keep it healthy strong free and safe from the cannibal capitalists?

  2. These groups know exactly how everyone feels about their projects .
    Especially the aspect of the fracking.
    I had attended what I deem a consult for my band.
    Before it took place I was concerned about what role I would play in being taught by industry.
    About 5 minutes before I entered, I came up with my plan, ask questions about LNG, that I thought no one knew.
    I blasted the industries there, there was each proponent with representatives.
    I was hailed as knowing the great questions to ask.
    It was bothersome because it didnt ring true.
    When someone has to sell you a product, I tend to be weary.
    When people try to push daisey’s up your ass, I tend to close ranks.
    These industries think nothing of the individual, until the masses unite and let them know collectively how wrong they are.
    I love the Gitxsan. My band is welcoming the industry with open arms with the belief if it goes thru we will have been foolish not to have negotiated our piece of the pie.
    I am so pissed off by the band elected leader stating “We are not here to consider the fracking side of LNG”
    Meanwhile he has no problem withdrawing shares in a Scallop enterprise, as who would have scallops to harvest when tankers will ruin the waters for the enterprise to work?
    Enbridge owns Tsimshian land, and I know for a fact if we had a vote on who was able to buy our land, it sure would not have ended up with enbridge.
    why the smoke and mirrors?
    why the sneakiness?
    No enbridge has to do some backroom deal and provide nothing but act with callous disregard to what enbridge will be neighbours too.
    What sickens me more, the land is right at waters edge, salmon nurturing area, looking west to the most beautiful sunsets in the world.
    The gov and industry wonder why Natives dont care one whit for their industrial actions as
    gov and industry clearly dont understand reverence for land and the beauty of life.

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