Continuation from Part OneRead it Here
Ross explained the First Nations were promised jobs, these promises were broken. They were promised no negative impact, it turned out worse. They were given all these promises and then the promises were broken in the territories.
He moved onto reserves, which are postage stamps compared to the size of reserves in the lower mainland. The big reserve was on the Kitimat River. However, the diking on the Kitimat River changed the course of the river. Their biggest reserve is now cut in half and the spawning bed is a dry rock bank.
Ross told the panel every generation of Haisla for the last 60 years has had to live with the decisions, which were made without consultation with them. The impact is not physical, but mental as well. It affects the communities pride and dignity. Kitimat used to be the highest producing Oolichan producers in the Northwest and now other communities are risking their stocks for the Haisla.
He stated this should not be a testing ground to see if tides can carry oil up rivers or damage stocks. He told the panel his people wanted to see the environment protected first.
Even with the KLNG (Kitimat Liquified Natural Gas) and the Modernization (Rio Tinto Alcan smelter rebuild), they still have 300 Haisla people who are looking for jobs. They are not guaranteed jobs, they still have to fight for them. They get hung up on qualifications or unions and other reasons why the Haisla can not work.
He explained they expect the people who have jobs during the project will leave and look for greener pastures. The Haisla do not have the option, they have to stay here. They do not have the choice, they have the obligation. They will be the ones to clean it up and it will be a hard fight to get help from the government and the corporations.
“You know the term, passing the buck, I think that term was invented in the Haisla Territory because no one sticks around and takes responsibility for environmental degradation,” said Ross.
“That’s what the Haisla have learned over the past 50 to 60 years. That’s their new history, that’s their new knowledge,” said Ross.
He explained with the knowledge of the spills around the world, their fear is justified. The Haisla are participating in this review with all the facts which are out there. The facts are still being formed around the world. This is why they spoke as to why the project is unacceptable under any terms.
Ross stated the one consistency in the last 50 years is that the Haisla have had to fight for their environment alone. They had no support. However, this is changing. He was surprised there were environmental groups set up in Kitimat which see the risks of the project and are gaining the courage to speak up. They are no longer alone. They have partners in the District of Kitimat who can help them.
“If the picture I have painted is a pretty depressing gloomy picture, you can’t really whitewash what happened to the Haisla in the past 60 years, there is no positive spin you can put on it. Every impact affected Haisla first, affected it deeply and is still affecting it today. You can’t hide it,” said Ross.
He expressed at times, it was hard to be positive. They need some new traditional laws as the case law says the First Nations cannot be frozen in time. They are allowed to evolve.
Ross said they focus on protecting; however right now they are trying to bring back the environment. This is a component which he felt was needed in today’s age. Their last settlement with Eurocan was not about money, but measures for the pulp and paper mill to implement to stop dumping effluent in the river.
They received compensation rather then the upgrade. However, money was committed to rehabilitating the Kitimat River. They hoped others would jump on board. None did until Kitimat LNG who offered to compensate for loss of habitat on the land they are developing their gas pipeline on to be put towards the Kitimat River habitat.
Ross wanted to see a commitment to cleaner industries; to stop chasing money as the effects will effect the planet suggesting it can not all be for ones own development. He mentioned the investment to modernize Alcan will cut emissions.
He expressed he was trying to be as impartial as he could. He did not want to see a four hector area destroyed. They have seen too many incidences where crude oil gets into the environment and becomes impossible to clean up. They have data from Prince William Sound, the Gulf of Mexico and the Kalamazoo spills.
“There are options, Kitimat’s not the only option, Kitimat was never the only option for a smelter, it was never the only option of a pulp and paper mill, and so on and so on. There is always options,” said Ross.
He asked them to access this project but not consider the economics. Think of the pain and the emotions and apply it to the decision making.
He concluded by saying he stopped using the word hate and tried to be more patient when he became Chief Councillor. He would trust the JRP to make the right decision. He was working to be calm although he is not calm with in. He received a standing ovation,
Through out the presentations, there were no questions from the JRP. Upon the conclusion, the panel thanked the Haisla and each of them for their comments.
“This has been a very powerful day. The Haisla Nation has welcomed all of us in this room, you fed us and this panel has shared with us some of their traditional knowledge. We are honoured that you chose to share oral knowledge with us today,” said the Chairperson Legget “You have started us off well on the path of our community hearings and for that, we thank you.”
The JRP continues.