Vaughn Palmer: First Nations warn billions of oil and gas dollars at stake if NDP doesn’t act fast
VICTORIA — First Nations in northeast B.C. say companies are rethinking investments in the oil and gas sector because the province hasn’t resolved uncertainties arising from a landmark court decision.
“A number of major companies are actively considering whether to reallocate their planned investments in British Columbia,” say leaders of six Treaty 8 First Nations in an Oct. 31 letter to the NDP government. “It is no exaggeration to say that billions of dollars of economic activity are at stake now and in the future.”
The First Nations blame a government decision to exclude them from talks with the Blueberry River First Nations, another of the Treaty 8 group and winner of a major treaty rights decision earlier this year.
Though Blueberry River won the trail-blazing case on its own, the six Indigenous leaders say there is much overlap with their territories and interests that they ought to be part of any solution.
The principles defined by the court “apply to all Treaty 8 nations and to all activities across the Treaty 8 region,” they argue in urging the New Democrats to “work with us” on implementation.
“There are very serious challenges ahead for the province and for the companies that want to operate on treaty lands. … It is our strongly held view that this is a regional crisis that requires a regional solution.”
The B.C. Supreme Court ruled back in June that provincially approved industrial development — oil and gas drilling, timber-harvesting, road-building and hydro electric power — had trampled Blueberry River’s treaty right to hunt, fish, trap and pursue a traditional way of life.
Rather than appeal, the provincial government took strong direction from the court to negotiate with Blueberry River. On Oct. 7 the two sides announced a preliminary agreement that allowed 195 development permits to proceed.