CP Train Derails near Hells Gate, B.C., Spills Fuel into Fraser River

A photograph distributed by an agency of the B.C. government shows a train derailment that occurred on November 23, 2017.

A Canadian Pacific Rail train has derailed near Hells Gate, B.C. in the Fraser Canyon and leaked some fuel.

The train derailed due to a rock slide on Thursday.

The B.C. Environmental Emergency Program posted an update Friday morning.

They will be working with Canadian Pacific Railway to monitor the spill response activities and assess environmental impacts.

“Fuel was leaking out of the vent line hole, over the steep bank and into the Fraser River at a fairly steady flow,” the update said.

The hole has been temporarily patched.

Affected First Nations have been updated on the situation and will continue to be notified of ongoing response actions.

There’s not yet information available on how much fuel leaked.


Story will be updated..

Chilliwack, B.C., Homeless Camp Residents Get Trespass Notice

A resident of a homeless camp in Chilliwack holds up a notice of trespass. The group of people living there in tents have been ordered to leave by Monday at noon. (Deborah Goble/CBC)

Homelessness growing the fastest in the Fraser Valley out of all of the Lower Mainland

Residents of a homeless camp in Chilliwack, B.C., have been handed a notice of trespass — despite their claims they have nowhere else to go.

“This is one of a few tent cities in Chilliwack. We’ve all banded together to survive because there are no beds at shelters,” said Dawnette Simons, who has been living at the camp since it started five years ago.

Simons said the residents were given the notice 10 days ago and have been told to leave by Monday at noon.

“We don’t know what we’re going to do. This is the end of the rope, so to speak, in terms of a place for homeless people like us,” she said.

The residents say they believe they’re on Crown land. But there are signs saying no trespassing all around the camp.

Veronica Evans lives in this tent with four other family members, including her 72-year-old mother. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

Simons says the group isn’t planning to dispute the order. Instead, it’s now looking to move to a patch of grass in the middle of a three-way intersection close to a nearby Walmart.

The camp at Evans Road is the same place where a 51-year-old woman died after her tent collapsed under heavy snow last winter.

That woman’s sister is Veronica Evans, who still lives at the camp. She lives in a tent with five family members, including her 72-year-old mother. They all use a propane stove to keep warm.

“I have an air horn if there’s a fire,” Evans said.

“I go ‘doot doot doot’ and everyone comes running with shovels and what not, and we put the fires out in minutes.”

Homelessness in the Fraser Valley has grown faster than anywhere else in the Lower Mainland. In Chilliwack, the homeless count nearly tripled, from 73 to 221 people.

Mayor Sharon Gaetz didn’t respond to CBC requests for an interview on Sunday. But she has previously told CBC News that there are 18 different homeless camps spread throughout the large municipality.

She also pointed out that housing is a provincial responsibility.

CBC News


Kinder Morgan Serves Notice to Landowners on Pipeline Route

Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Expansion Project's Westeridge loading dock is seen in Burnaby, B.C., on Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion Project’s Westeridge loading dock is seen in Burnaby, B.C., on Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Letters to be mailed to property owners along proposed route of Trans Mountain expansion

CBC News Posted: Feb 23, 2017

Kinder Morgan is beginning to issue letters to Burnaby, B.C. landowners whose property falls on the pipeline corridor, outlining how the project will utilize their land.

“One of the next steps in the process for us … is to get into more of the details of the route of where the pipeline will go,” said Ali Hounsell, spokesperson for Kinder Morgan “There’s about 60 parcels of land through Burnaby that the pipeline will go [through].”

The proposed route for the Kinder Morgan expansion pipeline is highlighted in green. The orange trail is an alternative route — which runs through a residential area.

The proposed route for the Kinder Morgan expansion pipeline is highlighted in green. The orange trail is an alternative route — which runs through a residential area.

Hounsell says the pipeline will not run through residential areas. Of the 60 parcels, a dozen are either commercial or industrial zones with the City of Burnaby owning the remainder.

“There are no individual homeowners who will be impacted by the new route,” said Hounsell. “The idea is that we are trying to minimize the disruption to individuals. Obviously, when we get to the construction phase, there will be some disruption.”

Opposed landowners

The notices are part of a draft document that was approved by the National Energy Board earlier this month. The plan requires Kinder Morgan to list the number of landowners that are affected by the project.

Anyone objecting to the use of their property can file a statement of opposition to the NEB, which could potentially reroute the corridor if the reason for the opposition is found to be justified.

But Hounsell says there are existing relationships between landowners along the corridor and Kinder Morgan.

Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan says there's still a long fight ahead of the Kinder Morgan expansion project. (Simon Charland/CBC)

Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan says there’s still a long fight ahead of the Kinder Morgan expansion project. (Simon Charland/CBC)

But, Burnaby remains opposed to the project with Mayor Derek Corrigan saying the route remains “offensive.”

“They are now looking at going through the Burnaby Mountain conservation area, which is not a good alternative as far as we’re concerned,” said Corrigan. “It will have a significant impact on our conservation and park area.”

Corrigan is also challenging the notion that no residential areas will be adversely affected by the property.

“There is no way that they can bring this pipeline through a very dense urban area and not have an impact on residents in general, and some residents in particular.”

Upcoming roadblocks

Burnaby has appealed the the NEB’s approval of the project, and will argue their case in the Federal Court of Appeal. Meanwhile, the City of Vancouver is in the process of requesting its own judicial review of the B.C. government’s approval of the project.

“There [are] still significant hurdles for Kinder Morgan to achieve before this project moves ahead,” said Corrigan.

The company says it will attempt to mend its fractured relationship with the city.

“We continue to make efforts to reach out to them, and we’re hopeful and optimistic — now that the pipeline is approved — to be able to sit down and have these kind of working relationships,” said Hounsell.


Court Hears B.C. Mountie Twice Convicted Of Punching Indigenous Suspects

A veteran RCMP officer is awaiting sentencing for punching a handcuffed teenager in the face during a violent arrest in Terrace in 2014. (Terrace Standard Newspaper )

A veteran RCMP officer is awaiting sentencing for punching a handcuffed teenager in the face during a violent arrest in Terrace in 2014. (Terrace Standard Newspaper )

Veteran RCMP constable likely won’t serve jail time for punching handcuffed teen in Terrace

CBC News Posted: Oct 21, 2016

A veteran RCMP officer convicted of punching a handcuffed Indigenous teenager was previously convicted of assaulting an Indigenous man in a jail cell more than a decade ago.

The earlier assault was revealed during a sentencing hearing for Terrace, B.C. Const. Bruce Lofroth.

Lofroth has worked as a police officer for almost 30 years, first with the Victoria Police and then as an RCMP officer and member of the Emergency Response Team in northern B.C.

Lofroth, 53, pleaded guilty this year to a 2014 assault during a violent arrest.

He was charged after a video of the incident was made public.

The video was shown twice during Lofroth’s four- hour sentencing hearing in B.C. provincial court in Terrace.

Lofroth punched handcuffed teen in face

The video shows a subdued teenager lying on the sidewalk in handcuffs offering no resistance, just before Lofroth punches him in the face.

The “depth of recoil of Lofroth’s punching arm is indicative of the force used,” said Crown prosecutor Michael van Klaveren.

RCMP Constable Bruce Lofroth was raised in Terrace and has policed the northwestern B.C. community for years. (City of Terrace)

RCMP Constable Bruce Lofroth was raised in Terrace and has policed the northwestern B.C. community for years. (City of Terrace)

Thirteen years prior to that sidewalk punch, in 2001, Lofroth was convicted of punching a man in a Prince Rupert jail cellblock.

At his sentencing hearing this week, the Crown stated the man, who Lofroth had arrested, kicked and spat at the officer.

Lofroth unlocked the cell door and punched the prisoner, according to the Crown. The man fell to the floor and suffered a cut lip that required stitches.

Court heard Lofroth was under emotional stress at the time because of the death of his brother.

He was found guilty of the 2001 assault, but the judge granted him a conditional discharge and told him he expected this would never happen again.

But, now, it has.

At Friday’s sentencing hearing, defence lawyer Brad Smith argued the two incidents were unrelated, separated by a period of 13 years.

‘He has accepted responsibility’

Smith described Lofroth as a quiet family man, a father of two teenagers and a veteran Mountie “who doesn’t hesitate to do the jobs others do not intend to do.”

“He’s the sort of man you’d like to have in your corner in a crisis.”

“He has accepted responsibility for what he has done,” said Smith, who noted that the teen in the case had attacked Lofroth before he was subdued.

“His career will not recover from this.”

Smith called for a conditional discharge, which would mean no criminal record. He said Lofroth has already been disciplined by the RCMP for use of excessive force.

The lawyer also pointed out Lofroth had been on desk duty at reduced pay, had been permanently removed from the Emergency Response Team and had been embarrassed in his community by media coverage of the case.

Crown seeks suspended sentence

The Crown is seeking a suspended sentence, which would mean a criminal record for the veteran Mountie.

It is also asking for a number of conditions, including anger counselling for Lofroth, a letter of apology to the youth he struck and mandatory community work within the First Nations community.

Judge Edmond de Walle, brought in from Salmon Arm for the sentencing, reserved his decision to a later date.


B.C. House With 10,000 Dirty Needles Connected To Youth In Provincial Care

RCMP Corp. Craig Douglass said the house connected to nearly a dozen youth in Prince George was a "crack house" and "flophouse." (Betsy Trumpener/CBC)

RCMP Corp. Craig Douglass said the house connected to nearly a dozen youth in Prince George was a “crack house” and “flophouse.” (Betsy Trumpener/CBC)

CBC News

Children as young as 12, some in government care, stayed in Prince George drug house

Children as young as 12, some in government care, were “effectively living” at a northern B.C. drug house where 10,000 dirty needles were found last month, CBC News has learned.

RCMP Corp. Craig Douglass called the rental duplex unit on Spruce Street near downtown Prince George, B.C., a “crack house” and “flophouse.” He said addicts bought drugs there and frequently stayed overnight while using crack cocaine, heroin, and crystal meth.

RCMP raided the home in response to a report of a woman being threatened with a firearm on Nov. 19. They arrested 15 people and found a vast quantity of used needles inside.

“A staff sergeant estimated 10,000 [needles] in this residence,” said Douglass. “They were in every cranny and crevice, in the couch, in bags of garbage, in any spot lying on the floor.”

Youth had nowhere else to go: Turpel-Lafond

B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, said about ten young people, aged 12 to 15 years old, were connected to the house.

“They were effectively living in what I can only describe as being a bit of a drug house,” she said.

Turpel-Lafond said she has been lobbying MCFD for several months to find them a safe place to live, but there are no beds or facilities in Prince George where they can get help.

“These are young people who are supposed to be in [ministry] care, living in a safe, appropriate home,” said Turpel-Lafond.

“These are some of our most vulnerable children, who are likely to come to serious harm. These are kids who’ve experienced abuse, who need a home and who need safety.”

Without a safe place to go, the youth have been surviving on the street, couch surfing, returning to abusive homes, or sleeping at a drug house, she said.

Turpel-Lafond said the youth may have been injecting hard drugs.

“They’re very easy prey for sexual abuse,” she said. “They’re in peril. This is an issue I’ve brought to the attention of  the ministry repeatedly.”

Turpel-Lafond is also critical of the community’s response.

“There must be people [who were] driving by that place every day and knew what was going on,” she said.

House previously raided

The ministry declined to comment on these specific allegations, citing privacy issues. It did say that the ministry has strict protocols in place to respond to allegations once youth are in its care.

Douglass said it wasn’t the first time officers had been called to the house and found young people there. A previous raid in August resulted in the arrest of a 14-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy.

“It’s not all that uncommon,” said Douglass. “We do find kids of all ages in these [type of] residences at times. Sometimes it’s toddlers crawling on the floor, sometimes it’s teenagers.”

Douglass said RCMP contacted the teenagers’ guardians and alerted the Ministry of Children and Family Development.


Oilpatch Dismayed By Liberal Move To Ban Crude Oil Tankers In Northern B.C.

The Douglas Channel, the proposed shipping route for oil tanker ships in the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, just south of Kitmat, B.C.

The Douglas Channel, the proposed shipping route for oil tanker ships in the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, just south of Kitmat, B.C.

By Geoffrey Morgan | November 16, 2015

CALGARY – Executives in the Canadian oilpatch are dismayed the federal government is poised to ban crude oil tanker traffic on the North Coast of B.C., which would hurt the Northern Gateway pipeline’s chances of being built.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau followed through on one of his election promises when he asked Transportation Minister Marc Garneau to “formalize a moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic on British Columbia’s North Coast” in a mandate letter published Friday.

“All of the natural resources that we, as a natural resources country, sell, we sell at the world price except for one,” Questerre Energy Corp. president and CEO Michael Binnion said, referring to oil.

He added that Canadian oil producers are forced to accept a steep discount for the crude they produce, which they can only sell to American refineries because of the lack of export pipelines. Binnion said the discount is a direct benefit to the U.S., where President Barack Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline earlier this month.

“Forcing Western Canada to sell its oil and gas at a lot less than the world price to the benefit of Americans really seems ridiculous and counter to our strategic interests, so how could we possibly justify blocking the trade routes that would fix that problem?” Binnion said.

Enbridge Inc., which has been working to gain additional First Nations support for its $7.9-billion Northern Gateway pipeline across northern B.C., issued a response to the oil tanker traffic ban with a reminder that any moratorium would require First Nations and Métis support.

Environmental groups immediately called the moratorium a death-blow to the pipeline’s prospects.

“We are confident the Government of Canada will be embarking on the required consultations with First Nations and Métis in the region, given the potential economic impact a crude oil tanker ban would have on those communities and Western Canada as a whole,” Northern Gateway spokesperson Ivan Giesbrecht said in a statement.

Enbridge has said that it also needs more First Nations and Métis support before sanctioning its 1,100 kilometre pipeline between the Edmonton area and a proposed marine terminal at Kitimat, B.C.. which would be directly affected by a crude oil tanker traffic ban off British Columbia’s North Coast.

The marine terminal would allow tankers to export crude oil from Canada to markets in Asia.

The Calgary-based pipeline company received regulatory approvals, subject to 209 conditions, for the Northern Gateway project in 2014 but has yet to proceed with the project amid First Nations opposition.

Giesbrecht said the company and its aboriginal equity partners remain committed to building the pipeline and added, “We are looking forward to an opportunity to sit down with the new Prime Minister and his Cabinet to provide an update on the progress of our project and our partnerships with First Nations and Métis people in Alberta and B.C.”

“We share the vision of the Trudeau government that energy projects must incorporate world-leading environmental standards and First Nations and Métis ownership,” he said.

Eagle Spirit Energy Holdings has also proposed an oilsands pipeline across northern B.C. and recently announced that it had the support of every First Nations group along its proposed route, a claim other aboriginal groups denied.

Eagle Spirit, which would also build a refinery as part of its pipeline project, declined a request for comment on the proposed moratorium.

It is unclear whether or not the federal government’s moratorium would include tankers carrying refined oil off the coast of northern B.C., but it would not affect Kinder Morgan Canada’s plans to expand its Trans Mountain pipeline system across southern B.C.

Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson said at a conference Friday that his company has operated “out of Port Metro Vancouver and tankers have been going through there for 60 years.” He added that he’s confident the project will go forward.

Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers president and CEO Tim McMillan said he opposed a tanker ban and added “any barrier to get products to market is a problem for Canada.

With files from the Calgary Herald

Source: Financial Post


LNG Line Eyes New Route Over Aboriginal Concerns

A model at the LNG Canada offices in Kitimat shows the proposed liquified natural gas liquification plant and marine terminal that would be fed by the proposed Coastal GasLink line. Photograph by: Robin Rowland , THE CANADIAN PRESS

A model at the LNG Canada offices in Kitimat shows the proposed liquified natural gas liquification plant and marine terminal that would be fed by the proposed Coastal GasLink line. Photograph by: Robin Rowland , THE CANADIAN PRESS

By Gordon Hoekstra | Vancouver Sun, Oct 25, 2015

Change in northwest B.C. is in area where Unist’ot’en are blocking LNG developers

TransCanada is making pipeline route changes to lock up First Nation support for a leading proposed liquefied natural gas mega-project on the northwest coast of B.C.

The Calgary-based company has announced it will apply in November for an alternative route along a stretch of the pipeline on its $4.7-billion Coastal GasLink project that will supply the Shell-led LNG Canada export terminal with a price tag of $40 billion.

TransCanada said it did so after “extensive” consultations with aboriginal groups in the area of the alternative route.

The company already has approval from the B.C. government following an environmental assessment for its 650-kilometre pipeline from northeast B.C. to Kitimat. The 56-kilometre alternative — about nine per cent of the pipeline distance — would be subject to a review by the province, which would not be complete until next year.

But TransCanada says it wants to have the option to construct the section about five kilometres north of the approved route to address concerns of aboriginal groups about the potential effect of pipeline construction and operations on groundwater flows into the Morice River, an important salmon-bearing river.

The Kitimat terminal and pipeline enjoys support from at least nine First Nations, but the Unist’ot’en, a clan of the Wet’suwe’ten people, have set up a camp and blocked entry at a bridge over the Morice River to energy pipeline companies, including TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink.

The company said the alternative route does not cross through the camp, but neither did the first route.

“We are confident both routes could be built, and both options reflect TransCanada’s high standards and commitment to safety and environmental protection,” TransCanada spokesman Mark Cooper said in an email on Sunday.

“We’ll decide on the route once we have all of our regulatory approvals, and when we’ve had the opportunity to fully assess both options,” he said.

The Unist’ot’en could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

Shell and other leading LNG proponents like Chevron and Petronas have yet to make final investment decisions and face headwinds from reduced available capital from low oil prices, increased global LNG supply coming on stream and lower natural gas prices in a jittery global economy. In the past, TransCanada officials have said a decision could come in 2016.

It’s unclear how the alternative route proposal could affect that timing.

TransCanada, like many companies, are seeking to reach agreements with First Nations in B.C., as successive court victories provide increasing clout to aboriginals over land and natural resources.

While the Unist’ot’en have been adamant in their opposition to pipeline projects, some First Nations have distanced themselves from the group, issuing a statement this summer saying the clan does not speak for them.

Those include the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, Nee Tahi Buhn, Burns Lake Band and Skin Tyee Nation in north-central B.C.

The four First Nations formed the First Nations LNG Alliance, a group that supports LNG development in the province.

In an interview on Sunday, Wet’suwet’en First Nation chief Karen Ogen said they were aware of TransCanada’s plans for an alternative route and have no issue with it.

Ogen said the No. 1 priority in LNG development is the protection of the environment. She noted an existing natural gas pipeline in place in northern B.C. since 1968 has not caused harm to First Nation traditional territory.

Ogen said LNG development also brings potential economic benefit, employment and training for her community.

The four First Nations and others have signed project agreements with Coastal GasLink and benefit agreements with the province worth millions of dollars.

TransCanada does not yet have a cost estimate for the alternative section.


Amnesty International Investigates Murdered And Missing Indigenous Women In B.C.

Every year, people in Fort St John march through the streets and remember missing and murdered loved ones. (Fort St John Sisters in Spirit/Facebook)

Every year, people in Fort St John march through the streets and remember missing and murdered loved ones. (Fort St John Sisters in Spirit/Facebook)

CBC News

MLA condemns tragedy, says violence not specific to his region or to indigenous women

Amnesty International Canada is wrapping up a human rights investigation in northeastern B.C. and the human rights group says it’s alarmed by violence against aboriginal women amidst industrial development in the region.

Investigators just wrapped up a fact finding mission in Fort St. John on Friday. Amnesty women’s rights campaigner Jacqueline Hansen — who is based in Ottawa — has been meeting with as many people as she can.

She says a local aboriginal woman first alerted Amnesty to a growing list of women from the region who’d been murdered or gone missing. It includes local woman Cynthia Maas, who was taken from the streets of Prince George and murdered by convicted serial killer Cody Legebokoff.

“For the size of the community and the length of the list … there’s something going on,” said Hansen. “We’re trying to understand the patterns that have led so many women to go missing or be murdered from this relatively small northern community.”

It may be difficult for Canadians to understand why Amnesty is focusing on a local community, Hansen acknowledged.

Amnesty International Jacqueline Hansen

Amnesty International’s Jacqueline Hansen traveled from Ottawa to Fort St John to investigate violence against women in the Peace. “We’ve failed to take concrete action to deal with this crisis,” she says. (Betsy Trumpener/CBC)

“The right to live free from violence is a core fundamental human right. Rights violations don’t just happen out there overseas. They’re happening in our backyard, and in northern British Columbia.”

Amnesty is especially concerned about violence against indigenous women during rapid industrial development in the region, Hansen said.

“What are the impacts of large scale natural resource developments of oil and gas, mines, Site C, LNG? We’re not just interested in how these projects affect plants and animals. We’re interested in how they affect people.”

Research already shows a link between the influx of transient work forces and higher levels of violence against women, according to Amnesty.

North Peace MLA Pat Pimm said he was not aware of Amnesty International’s investigation, but he welcomes their interest. However, he said the problem of missing and murdered women is not confined to his region, and is about all women, whether aboriginal or not.

Amnesty International Canada will make its research public in the spring of 2016, it said.

It’s the second time in recent years that international human rights groups have launched investigations in northern BC.

In 2012, Human Rights Watch investigators travelled northern B.C.’s so called “Highway of Tears”  and released a report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Policing.


First Nation Protesters Seek To Stop Test Drilling At Proposed LNG Site

Protest camp at Lelu Island. Photograph by: Facebook

Protest camp at Lelu Island. Photograph by: Facebook

By Gordon Hoekstra | Vancouver Sun, Posted Sept,13, 2015

Petronas-led proposal for Lelu Island is one of leading B.C. projects

Northern B.C. First Nation members say they stopped Malaysian state-controlled Petronas, the company behind an $11.4-billion liquefied natural gas terminal, from starting test ocean drilling in northwest B.C. this weekend.

The 33-metre Quin Delta drill ship, owned by Gregg Marine in California, and a barge were moved into the waters off Lelu Island near Prince Rupert by Pacific NorthWest LNG early Saturday morning.

Some equipment was set up before First Nations went out to the ship and asked the workers to stop, said Joey Wesley, a Lax Kw’alaams First Nation member.

The activity ceased, but the workers appeared to have trouble removing equipment from the ocean floor, including heavy concrete blocks with surface markers, he said. The ship and barge remained in their location on Sunday just off Lelu Island, said Wesley.

“Our intention is to put a stop to it. It’s a really sensitive eco-system,” Wesley said in a phone interview Sunday.

Wesley is part of an “occupation” camp — numbering 45 or so people from various First Nations — set up on the island two weeks ago over concerns the LNG project will harm salmon-rearing habitat in eel grass beds at Flora Bank adjacent to the island and to block development of the terminal.

The occupation group put out a call on Facebook during the weekend for reinforcements to help halt any drilling.

Wesley, whose family claims Lelu Island as a traditional-use area, noted that four or five workers walked onto Flora Bank when it was exposed by the low tide on Sunday, something they had been asked not to do.

Wesley said their concerns have been heightened by a 2013 internal audit that found serious safety issues on Petronas’ offshore Malaysian operations revealed in a Vancouver Sun last week.

The Prince Rupert Port Authority said Sunday it has authorized Pacific NorthWest LNG to drill as part of preliminary site work for a federal assessment. In an email, port authority spokesman Michael Gurney said they respect people’s right to express their opinion safely and peacefully, but noted they have patrol boats in the harbour and anybody jeopardizing safety will be asked to stop.

Pacific NorthWest LNG could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

The drilling vessel Quin Delta (contracted out of Gregg Marine in California by Petronas/PNW LNG and Prince Rupert Port Authority) attempted to drill in Agnew Bank. Photograph by: Facebook

The drilling vessel Quin Delta (contracted out of Gregg Marine in California by Petronas/PNW LNG and Prince Rupert Port Authority) attempted to drill in Agnew Bank.
Photograph by: Facebook

The terminal and its pipeline to northeast B.C. have been viewed as a leading project in the Christy Clark-led Liberal government’s efforts to start a new natural gas export industry to Asia.

Last spring, the Lax Kw’alaams rejected a $1.15-billion benefits package offer from the company and the B.C. government on concerns over Flora Bank.

The Lax Kw’alaams elected leadership told its members three weeks ago it had an agreement that allowed investigative drilling to find an alternative site, away from the Flora Bank. The port has said the elected leadership has agreed to the drilling work.

The company, however, has not answered questions on whether the drilling is to find another location for a suspension bridge and pier that skirts one edge of Flora Bank.

While the province has approved the Pacific NorthWest LNG project, a federal government review is still pending.

It’s been delayed several times as the agency has asked for more information about the effects of the project on salmon-rearing habitat at Flora Bank.


First Nations Leaders Say It’s Back To Barricades If They Don’t Get A Deal With Christy Clark

From left to right, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Grand Chief Edward John and British Columbia Premier Christy Clark listen during a gathering with cabinet ministers and First Nations leaders in Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday September 11, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck ORG XMIT: VCRD108

From left to right, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Grand Chief Edward John and British Columbia Premier Christy Clark listen during a gathering with cabinet ministers and First Nations leaders in Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday September 11, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS

By Dirk Meissner / The Canadian Press

B.C. Premier Christy Clark is expected to try and bridge the chasm that separates her government and the leaders of the province’s First Nations at a meeting in Vancouver today.

About 500 First Nations leaders are meeting with Clark and members of her cabinet again today with the aim of signing a joint government-First Nations working agreement.

But the chasm that separates her government and First Nations was clearly defined yesterday when talks got underway at a Vancouver hotel for the second annual all-chiefs meetings.

While B.C.’s Aboriginal Relations Minister John Rustad said there has been remarkable achievements on economic and social fronts with First Nations, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said they’re giving the government a one-year deadline to negotiate a reconciliation deal.

“The underlying message is if we don’t make any progress within the space of the next year, I would suggest all of this will fall through and it will be back to the courts and pretty much back to the barricades,” said Phillip.

Landmark ruling

Last year’s landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision that granted the Tsilhqot’in Nation aboriginal title to 1,700 square kilometres of land in B.C.’s Nemiah Valley remains the driving force behind the reconciliation initiative prompted by Clark and First Nations leaders.

The decision is the first in Canadian history where aboriginals have been granted title to land they claimed as their own. Tsilhqot’in Chief Roger William said the ruling gives First Nations a legal tool to use as leverage in negotiations with governments and resource developers.

Legal scholars and political experts have suggested the ruling gives aboriginals massive powers on land-use issues, especially resource development. B.C. First Nations are seeking government support for aboriginal rights and title to lands, which also includes revenue sharing.

Phillip said all involved must have the courage to move forward, build consensus and silence those who predict Armageddon if First Nations are given an equal voice in building and sharing B.C.’s economic future.

Clark has said ignoring the Supreme Court ruling puts B.C.’s future in peril, prompting her to meet with the chiefs and councillors from B.C.’s more than 200 First Nations.

Phillip said chiefs left last year’s meeting disappointed because the province did not adopt a four-point statement that established government support for their rights and title to lands.

“The last time we couldn’t even agree on a public statement,” said Phillip, adding when it comes to reconciliation B.C. is at “strike two.”

“We need a legislative framework and a policy framework we can rely on that allows us to reconcile aboriginal title rights interests and other Crown and industry interests. We don’t have that.”

Phillip said the economy of B.C. hangs in the balance and all parties are aware of the gravity of the situation.

Rustad said the provincial government’s relations with First Nations over the last decade on numerous economic and social fronts have been ground-breaking.

The handful of First Nations who have negotiated land-claims treaties have produced spectacular results, but the process takes too long, he said.

“We need to be able to find a way to do this in a much more expedited manner.”

While much of the conference is closed to the media, Clark is expected to make a public address before the chiefs on Thursday.

Source: http://fw.to/gQ0XAfX