A British Columbia First Nation says the provincial government is dragging its feet when it comes to consulting with aboriginal people about proposed liquefied natural gas developments, including revenue sharing.
The Wet'suwet'un First Nation warned Premier Christy Clark Monday in a statement that consultations must begin immediately or the First Nation will "pursue the steps necessary to ensure that the province fulfills its constitutional obligations."
Wet'suwet'un Chief Karen Ogen said her First Nation sent Clark a letter last August urging her to start consultations, but there's been no reply even though the government is meeting with the industry as it develops regulatory and taxation policies.
"Time is running out," said Ogen in a statement.
"Taking First Nations support for granted and treating consultation with Wet'suwet'en First Nation as an inconvenient afterthought is not consultation in good faith."
Ogen could not be immediately reached for comment; she was attending a memorial service in B.C. for the families and victims of a January 2012 explosion at the Babine Forest Products sawmill that killed two people from Burns Lake and injured at least 20 others.
The Burns Lake area of north-central B.C. is part of the traditional territories of the Wet'suwet'un people.
Ogen said LNG development decisions have the potential to shape and impact aboriginal lands for several decades and First Nations want to be included in the process. She said governments are legally obligated to consult with First Nations on developments that could impact their territories.
Three proposed pipelines cross territory
At least three proposed natural gas pipelines leading to the proposed LNG terminals in northwest B.C. near Kitimat and Prince Rupert cross through Wet'suwet'un territory, said the First Nation.
"We have to get Crown consultation right on a new LNG Industry which will impact First Nations lands, including Wet'suwet'en aboriginal title lands, for the next 30-plus years," said Ogen.
"If Premier Clark fails to provide the information we have requested by January 31 and begin meaningful Crown consultation with Wet'suwet'en on the new LNG industry, then Wet'suwet'en First Nation will pursue the steps necessary to ensure that the province fulfills its constitutional obligations."
The statement does not elaborate on what steps the First Nation will take, but the Wet'suwet'un have never been shy from taking their issues to court.
The Wet'suwet'un were part of the landmark Delgamuukw Supreme Court of Canada decision in 1997 that said aboriginal title does exist in B.C. The ruling said governments must consult First Nations whose title rights are affected and they may have to compensate them.
Clark has said LNG development in B.C. is a $1-trillion opportunity that could create up to 100,000 jobs.
Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister John Rustad was not immediately available for comment.