Long term financial benefits to Indigenous bands possibly exceeding $338 million cumulatively

Editor:

An open letter to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, regarding its statement re: the Coastal GasLink natural-gas pipeline.

The First Nations LNG Alliance here responds to the UN committee’s call on the federal government to halt the Coastal GasLink pipeline and two other projects (the Site C dam and the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion) pending approval by affected First Nations.

The Alliance was shocked to see the committee issue its “decision statement” concerning the Coastal GasLink pipeline without investigation or research, and without taking into account the extent of existing First Nations support for the pipeline, and without consultation with those Nations.

The committee should have been aware that that 20 First Nations participated extensively during five years of consultation on the pipeline, and have successfully negotiated agreements with Coastal GasLink. This is on the public record.

The committee should also have known of the social and economic benefits already being realized by workers and communities, associated with employment and capacity development on a project like the pipeline. This, too, is on the public record.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has noted: “The long term financial benefits to those Indigenous bands are expected to be significant, possibly exceeding $338 million cumulatively over the life of the pipeline project.” That is on record.

To date, more than one-third of the work completed on the project has been conducted by Indigenous people. Coastal GasLink has earmarked $620 million in contracting opportunities to First Nations in BC. And there is more to come. All this is on the public record.

Yet we see the committee’s chair quoted in a news-media interview as saying: “I did not know that most First Nations agree on that. This is something new that comes to my understanding.”

Asked why the committee did not gather more information, the chair said its role does not include investigations.

Its role, it would then seem, is to accept complaints (there is a complaint form online) and then issue decisions without investigation, research, or due diligence.

This decision as issued was clearly ignorant of Canadian laws and regulatory procedures. The pipeline (and the other projects) have been fully reviewed, and First Nations have had opportunity for years to ensure that they are consulted and accommodated.

The UN committee’s statement and recommendations should simply and immediately be withdrawn, along with an apology to the 20 Nations.

Karen Ogen-Toews

CEO First Nations LNG Alliance

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