British Columbia

Skeena River First Nations oppose Petronas LNG plant near Prince Rupert

Four B.C. First Nations are declaring their opposition to the proposed Petronas LNG project south of Prince Rupert, citing fears of massive damage to their salmon habitat.

Four First Nations say lack of consultation has put Petronas project at serious risk

Aerial view of the Skeena River estuary. A Terrace area First Nation wants to protect its waters from any potential rail spill. (Kitsumkalum Indian Band/Contributed)

Four B.C. First Nations from the Skeena watershed in northwestern B.C. are declaring their opposition to the proposed Petronas LNG project on Lelu Island south of Prince Rupert citing fear of massive damage to their salmon habitat.

The group includes the Wet'suwet'en, the Gitanyow, the Lake Babine and the Gitxsan First Nations, representatives of which all travelled to Vancouver to hold a news conference about their concerns on Thursday.

Gitanyow First Nations chief negotiator Glen Williams says the massive development is on the Skeena River's most critical salmon habitat yet the lack of consultation has been "shocking."

"We have written CEAA several times since spring 2013 to express our concerns with the project and requested bilateral consultation," said Williams. "The Crown has refused, stating that because of the distance between our traditional lands and the terminal, it is not required." 

Salmonids in the Skeena River. First Nations say the proposed project will affect their livelihood and industry which is built around spawning salmon. (Skeena River First Nations)

However, Williams says the Skeena-River-area First Nations have "concrete scientific evidence" that shows the salmon in the river rely on areas that will be substantially affected by the development.

"Studies show that altering or destroying crucial habitat in the estuary will significantly damage the abundance and health of Skeena salmon, which are the essential foundation of First Nations' constitutionally protected right to fish throughout the watershed," he said.

The Chiefs of the four Skeena-River-area First Nations say the poor siting of the proposed facility and failure to seek First Nations' approval puts the $11 billion project at risk.

On mobile?  See map of Lelu Island south of Prince Rupert

With files from the CBC's Terry Donnelly