Protest against a liquefied natural gas terminal in British Columbia. Photo: Stop Pacific NorthWest LNG/Petronas on Lelu Island
Business | Canada | Environment

Judge to decide who represents Native community in British Columbia

A judge in Canada is being asked to decide who represents a Native community where an energy project has generated significant controversy.

Earlier this year, Lax Kw'alaams Band and the Metlakatla First Nation agreed to support plans for a liquefied natural gas terminal in British Columbia. Their support is crucial because the project is located on traditional Tsimshian territory.

But the Gitwilgyoots Tribe has asked a judge to intervene. Donnie Wesley, the hereditary chief, said his people are the caretakers of the project site on Lelu Island yet weren't consulted by the B.C. government, as required by law and policy.

According to news reports, the three tribes -- along with the developer of the $36 billion gas terminal -- spent two days in court in June discussing the case. Lax Kw'alaams and Metlakatla claim Wesley does not have the authority to represent the Gitwilgyoots. They also say some Gitwilgyoots are citizens of their nations.

Leaders of the Lax Kw'alaams Band and the Metlakatla First Nation with representatives of the British Columbia government and Pacific NorthWest LNG in February 2017. Photo: Province of British Columbia

Metlakatla signed an "impact benefit agreement" with Pacific NorthWest LNG, the developer, in December 2014. A final agreement was reached in February.

Lax Kw'alaams initially opposed the project. But its leaders changed course and joined Metlakatla in signing an agreement in February.

The proposed terminal will be used to ship natural gas to markets in Asia. Pacific NorthWest LNG is owned by Petronas, the oil and gas corporation for the country of Malaysia.

Read More on the Story:
Tribe or band? Judge will decide who represents Lelu (The Haida Gwaii Observer‎ 7/6)
B.C. hereditary tribal leader aims to fight Pacific NorthWest LNG project (The Globe and Mail 6/14)
Pacific Northwest LNG court battle: 'At jeopardy is our whole tribal system' (Discourse Media 6/13)