British Columbia

Haisla chief councillor says LNG development means prosperity in his community

Haisla Chief Councillor Ellis Ross says the drop in LNG prices has been terrible for the people of his community: “They’ve had to leave my territory. And that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to work against.”

Shell has postponed a final decision on Kitimat plant because of low LNG price

Haisla First Nation Chief Councillor Ellis Ross, right, laughs with Hereditary Chief Marilynn Furlan in 2012. Ross is concerned about what failing to develop LNG will mean for his community. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Ellis Ross, chief councillor of the Haisla Nation near Kitimat, says he hopes LNG development in B.C. goes forward so the people of his community can stay connected to their home.

"First Nations always connect themselves to where their ancestors came from. And we're no different," he told Radio West host Audrey McKinnon.

He says people in his community, especially young people, experienced prosperity for the first time thanks to LNG development.

"They got a taste, for the first time, of good paying jobs, the ability to go out and get a mortgage and buy a truck," he said.

But he fears if the project stalls, they won't have a future in traditional Haisla territory.

"That's exactly what I've been trying to work against," said Ross. They've had to leave my territory. They've had to go to Prince George for mining, or they've had to go to Alberta or Vancouver or wherever there's a good-paying job." 

Ross is one of a select group of Northern B.C. leaders attending Nation2Nation Community Forum in Kitimat, "to showcase the Haisla Nation and District of Kitimat's support for economic development."

Fort Nelson Mayor Bill Streeper also spoke in support of LNG development at the forum and Ross says he liked what he heard, calling it  "the truth" about LNG and fracking.

"All the stories you see about people lighting taps on fire and contaminated water tables, those issues don't exist in his community," Ross said. "[Streeper] said you want to talk about fracking issues in B.C.? Why don't you come talk to the people who do it for a living?"

A rendering of the proposed Kitimat LNG project. The final investment decision from Shell has been delayed until the end of 2016. (LNG Canada/Flickr)

In 2012 Haisla Nation broke away from the Coastal First Nations alliance over Chevron's proposed Kitimat LNG plant. The other nine First Nations in the alliance expressed environmental concerns about the project.

Shell still has not made a final decision on the Kitimat project, and has postponed a final decision until the end of 2016.

Ross says the plummeting LNG prices have created a "sad situation" for First Nations and non-First Nations communities in Northern B.C.

With files from CBC Radio One's Radio West

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Haisla chief coun. says LNG opportunities mean his community can stay connected to home