Squamish Nation leadership has postponed its decision on the proposed Woodfibre LNG and associated FortisBC pipeline project until fall.
Meanwhile, some Squamish Nation members are saying they have been left out of the decision-making process altogether.
Squamish Nation member Beverly Brown joined about 18 other members on Friday in a rush-hour rally in North Vancouver to protest the proposed facility and their leadership’s handling of the issue.
Brown said there has been a lack of meaningful consultation about the project. Four meetings held for members prior to the release of the Squamish Nation’s recently announced 25 conditions were for information only, not for meaningful consultation, she said.
“They haven’t really got any feedback from the community, though they are trying to say in the media and in their news letters that they have got feedback from the community,” she said, adding that the community was never surveyed about the project.
“All of the negotiations have been done behind closed doors, amongst themselves. Membership has been completely excluded. We have had no say.”
Squamish’s Carol Joseph agreed.
“A lot of people are saying they never came to them,” she said.
There were two information meetings held last week specifically about the conditions, one at Totem Hall in Squamish and one in North Vancouver. Brown said her understanding is that Squamish Nation custom is that there be 30 days written notice to members on and off reserve for any meetings. Only a few days’ notice was given, she said.
At the Squamish meeting, about 48 members were in attendance, and at the North Vancouver, about 60, she said. The Squamish Nation has approximately 4,000 members.
But Chief Ian Campbell said it was “simply not true” that membership was not consulted on the project.
“While a few critics get most of the press, some members have a more open mind when it comes to the proposal,” Campbell said.
“But all Squamish Nation members have had their opinion reflected in the [Squamish Nation] Assessment Report, which was based on information collected from members through a series of community meetings, plain language bulletins, focus group sessions, email and telephone correspondence. All this was part of a comprehensive program of public education designed specifically for Squamish Nation members. This program started November 2014 and continues to this day.”
Under the Indian Act, Squamish Nation is not obligated to hold a referendum on developments on off-reserve lands, according to Campbell.
Brown said the actual site of the proposed facility is a traditional Squamish Nation village.
She said the information presented by the leadership about the project has been one-sided in support of the liquefied natural gas plant.
The provincial government paid for the Squamish Nation process that led to the Squamish Nation Assessment Report, Brown said.
“It is a conflict for the government to pay for the Nation’s assessment,” she said.
According to Campbell, Woodfibre LNG and FortisBC paid a fee to enter into the Squamish assessment process, “which covered all costs associated with the review of their respective projects. The province and federal governments also offered capacity funds for the Squamish Nation to participate in their assessment.”
In the end, the Squamish Nation assessment is just the province’s assessment with talk of First Nation’s culture and traditions thrown in, Brown said.
“There was nothing to go above and beyond to protect our cultural national rights as people. It doesn’t go far enough,” she said.
Campbell said while it is true that a portion of the Squamish process was to assess the information Woodfibre LNG and FortisBC submitted to the provincial environmental assessment, “the identification of Squamish Nation interests and values were all community driven.”
The Squamish Nation also required new information not available in the provincial process, Campbell said.
Brown said while the leadership put forward conditions to be met in order for the LNG facility to go through, her feeling is that most of the membership does not want the facility at all.
“In the two meetings that I attended, I heard many people over and over – ‘no to LNG’ and we heard council over and over trying to push the project onto the community,” Brown said.
“The people aren’t for it,” she said. “I am dead set against it.”