REPORTING · 18th October 2012
Chief Councillor for Kitamaat Village, Ellis Ross, stepped forward to speak to The Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services on Monday, October 15th.
“As you have probably heard, Haisla Territory are in an area extreme interest today, with at least three LNG projects at various stages of development and other economic development opportunities being actively considered,” said Ross.
He thanked the government for its progressive and practical attitude, mentioning Premier Christy Clark Challenged them to find a way to get things done away from the treaty table. The Haisla First Nations signed a term sheet on September 14th which allows them to formalize lease agreement with the Province to give them great control over the development of the lands on the west of the Douglas Channel.
He stated the large projects do place a large burden on the Council and Staff in Kitamaat Village. They are looking at 17 referrals specifically to the Pacific Trails Pipeline and there are ten more of these to come.
“We don’t have the in-house resources or expertise to evaluate these referrals and to determine if a particular case is one we have to be concerned about or not. As a result, we’re spending tens of thousands of dollars each month on external consultants, we have to call on to analyze the referrals and give us direction,” said Ross.
“We don’t have the money to do this endlessly, so we ask that the committee recommend two things to the government to help us manage this problem. First, provide us with each referral to allow us to adequately study the case at hand without drawing on our own resources, and work with us to develop a new approach to managing referrals, such as a regularly scheduled monthly meeting at which a senior government official outlines each referral to us so that we can make a decision about which need to be studied fully and which can be processed on the spot,” said Ross.
He hoped to be working with whoever forms the government in the next election and hoped they would continue to work with the First Nations.
For B Ralston, he provided an example of how the process he asked the government for would work. They had an issue concerning disposing clay at sea. They had agreed to 10,000 cubic metres but it turned into 2.3 million cubic meters.
“The Federal Crown came to our table, explained the issue, explained the timing, explained to the proponent that it couldn’t be done. There was just too much to be doing. So now we’re working out remediation, and now, we’re starting to find middle ground between the Federal Crown and the Proponent,” said Ross.
MLA Gary Coons stated the referral funding is a huge process. He represents several First Nations organizations trying to keep up with the projects. He wanted to know more about the LNG projects.
Ross talked about KLNG. “We’re doing everything within the process with the Crown that we can. We think it’s moving along fine, but it’s really the company now that’s got to make some major decisions about how far they take this project,” replied Ross. “The reserve site is now cleared off, and I think what they’re doing right now is trying to assess the disposal at sea issue, because they’ve got a lot of clay they’ve got to deal with.”
MLA Marc Dalton wanted to know if the people who were being asked to look at the referrals were outside contractors or people from the Haisla First Nations. Ross stated they were consultants. They trained a consultant but she left because they could not afford to pay her. The Council is paying $40,000 per month on referrals. They want in house expertise but he expressed it would take some time.
Answering questions from MLAs Pat Pimm and Dave Hayer, Ross explained the complexity of the Referral system. They receive a 10-15 page document and a request of their opinion of it. He expressed the process is complex and sometimes, he has to make sure the village is not being taken advantage of.
“For the Provincial Government relationship with the First Nations, it really boils down to the referral, so I think we sit down and we work together.