Tsartlip First Nation blasts Steelhead LNG over proposed Saanich project

Tsartlip First Nation blasts Steelhead LNG over proposed Saanich project

Tsartlip First Nation blasts Steelhead LNG over proposed Saanich project
Tsartlip Chief Don Tom opposing another unwanted project – construction of a luxury home on burial grounds

The Tsartlip First Nation on southern Vancouver Island is weighing in on a proposed LNG project for the Saanich Inlet – pouring cold water on an August 20 announcement by proponent Steelhead LNG touting the support of the neighbouring Malahat Nation. Both groups are jumping the gun, warns Tsartlip Chief Don Tom:

[quote]Tsartlip has requested a meeting with Steelhead LNG and it will take place onSeptember 11th. We intend on making it clear that Tsartlip First Nation’s approval will be required for any LNG project to proceed. We oppose the aggressive approach taken by Steelhead LNG and their Board of Directors by publicly announcing the project prior to any discussions with the Tsartlip community.[/quote]

This strong statement comes two weeks after Steelhead – which describes itself as “a Vancouver-based energy company focused on LNG project development in British Columbia” – trumpeted a “mutual benefits agreement” with the Malahat for a proposed floating LNG terminal in the Saanich Inlet at Bamberton. At the same time, the company announced that it had secured a builder, US pipeline company Williams, to begin designing the “Island Connector Project”, which would carry gas from Cherry Point, Washington to the floating plant.

“Tsartlip are the owners of the territory located on the eastern shore of the Saanich Inlet in Brentwood Bay and Tsartlip owns Goldstream Indian Reserve #13 directly to the south of the proposed LNG terminal location,” said a news release from the nation earlier today.

[quote]Steelhead LNG appears to be using a ‘cookie cutter’ approach in dealing with First Nations, this approach will not work with Tsartlip. We take offense to the aggressive pursuit of Malahat LNG without respectful acknowledgment of our Territory.[/quote]

The project is just the latest example of the problems energy companies can face when they ignore local First Nations’ concerns. Petronas faces similar challenges with the recent occupation by members of the Lax Kw’laams Nation of Lelu Island near Prince Rupert; while tensions continue mounting over pipelines planned to transit Unist’ot’en territory along the Morice River.

Further south, concerns have been raised by a growing number of groups and individuals about the risks of running LNG tankers through narrow passages and highly populated areas – which Chief Tom echoed in his comments today: ‎“Tsartlip takes tremendous pride in protecting all aspects of our community and will not subject our people to the risks around pipelines and LNG terminals, so far their process can be characterized as disrespectful and insulting.”


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.

11 thoughts on “Tsartlip First Nation blasts Steelhead LNG over proposed Saanich project

  1. No, chief Tom. You are wrong. You don’t “own all the territory”. British Columbians own all the territory, and as such, require a majority vote over what happens to our lands. It is your thinking that is the whole reason that the indians in this country don’t get any respect.

    1. I am not commenting here on the indigenous territorial boundaries in the Saanich region – there may well be territorial overlap requiring the say of multiple First Nations on matters such as this one. But in terms the question of ownership, inasmuch as this is unceded indigenous land, Chief Tom is correct, as the Supreme Court recently confirmed in the Tsilhqot’in/William case. Unceded title does, in fact, exist in BC. The question of an aboriginal “veto” per se, is less clear, but it is clear that a company like Steelhead makes a grave error in ignoring nations like Tsartlip. Moreover, it is the federal government’s duty to consult First Nations – one which it often hands off to industry, which can wind up causing problems for everyone involved.

      Your comment, enter_a_valid_username, is indicative of an outmoded, prejudiced view of indigenous peoples and their title and rights in the colonial construct we refer to as Canada. This view is not supported by contemporary jurisprudence. So that aspect of your comment is incorrect – as is the contention that we somehow make decisions on a democratic basis. There is very little direct democracy in this country (excepting the occasional plebiscite), and our current first-past-the-post, parliamentary system makes it possible for 40% of voters to secure an absolute majority and mandate for a government (that’s 40% of a 60% turnout of eligible voters, i.e. 24% of the voting public). Moreover, our ironclad system of caucus discipline ensures that individual MPs and MLAs are merely trained seals who vote as they are told in the Legislature our House.

      Therefore, I’m afraid you are operating under a complete misunderstanding of the legal and political landscape you inhabit today, enter_a_valid_username.

      However, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be working together – indigenous and non-indigenous peoples, multiple levels of government and industry – to create healthy economic development. Unfortunately, projects like this one miss the boat, in terms of sustainability and the way they are carried our by ham-fisted companies and governments ignorant of the very laws to which they are, at the end of the day, beholden.

      1. I contend the whole question is moot. Economics will ensure that Steelhead is a dead fish. Just won’t fly.

        1. You’re on to something there, John. Especially with a BC startup that smells a lot like a mining play…

  2. Dare I play Devil’s Advocate and suggest Chief Tom is using the media to set the tone for a more lucrative negotiation settlement with Steelhead LNG? At no point did he state emphatically that they are totally opposed to the LNG. He seems more ticked off at their foolish assumption that one “Nation’s” agreement is good for all. Excellent negotiation tactic.

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