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Lax Kw'alaams First Nation unanimously rejects LNG terminal

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In the third and final vote Tuesday night, the Lax Kw'alaams First Nation voted against the proposed Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal, despite a $1-billion offer to them to accept it.

The Globe and Mail reports, "Lax Kw'alaams members voting in the final of three meetings have unanimously rejected a $1-billion cash offer from Pacific NorthWest LNG, declining to give aboriginal consent sought by the project while creating uncertainty for plans to export liquefied natural gas from British Columbia's north coast. The lure of the money to be spread over 40 years is being overshadowed by what the native group views as excessive environmental risks. The Lax Kw'alaams fear the Pacific NorthWest LNG project led by Malaysia's Petronas will harm juvenile salmon habitat in Flora Bank, located next to the proposed export terminal site on Lelu Island."

The article continues, "In the first vote in Lax Kw'alaams, 181 eligible voters unanimously stood up to indicate their opposition to the LNG proposal. In the second vote in Prince Rupert, the pattern continued as 257 eligible voters declined to provide aboriginal consent. ...In Vancouver, 112 Lax Kw'alaams members stood up to convey their No votes, two sources close to the native group said. Dozens of others phoned and e-mailed band officials to signal their opposition." Reuters adds, "'100 percent Vote No!!', one Lax Kw'alaams member wrote on Facebook, and posted a video of the entire room standing up in opposition to the offer."

A Bloomberg news article notes, "The Lax Kw'alaams group has raised concerns including the potential destruction of salmon habitat, the lack of access the community would have to harvest traditional plants near the terminal, and the risk that its seafood resources would be contaminated."

Lax Kw'alaams Mayor Garry Reece says the final decision will be made by the 13-member Lax Kw'alaams council and announced this week.

The Canadian Press cautions, "[B.C. premier Christy] Clark says she believes reaching a negotiated agreement with the 3,700-member Lax Kw'allams First Nation, on whose territory the terminal would be built, is only a matter a time. ...Lelu Island is Crown land managed by the Prince Rupert Port Authority, which means the province technically has the authority to push ahead without support from the Lax Kw'allams. Even if the First Nation band proves it has aboriginal title -- which would require proving it has had exclusive occupancy of the territory -- Supreme Court precedent gives the province the right to override that claim."

A decision by Petronas, the company behind the Pacific NorthWest terminal, on whether or not to proceed with the project is expected by mid-year.

The Council of Canadians is opposed to the Pacific NorthWest LNG and stands in solidarity with the Lax Kw'alaams First Nation.

Our previous blogs on these votes can be read here and here.

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