Friday, August 17, 2012

Kitimat Clean Refinery Proposal - the land and First Nations

map is from the Kitimat Clean website
The Kitimat Clean Refinery is proposed to be built about half way between Kitimat and Terrace on Crown Land.   The site is 3300 hectare in size and a nice flat piece of land with access to services.   It is a shockingly nice piece of land that would be perfect for an industrial development.  It would also be a great place for a new community.

This land clearly is of interest to the First Nations.  I would be very surprised if as part of the Treaty process that Kitselas was not looking at this land as part of their potential settlement.   The Tsimshian as a whole were close to the completion of an Agreement in Principle in 2004 but then had some internal divisions meaning that several of the Tsimshian members dropped out.  Kitselas is one of the five members of the Tsimshian First Nations in the BCTC process.

This land is such a choice piece of land that I can not imagine it not being a core of the Kitselas settlement and removing it from the mix now is rather prejudicial to the Treaty negotiations.  As it is at the moment the 585 members of the Kitselas are land poor with just over 1000 hectares of land not all of it in useful locations for housing or economic development purposes.

Kitselas is on the only Tsimshian community with an interest the area.  Metlakatla has the land as part of their terrritory.  The refinery site is only 8 kilometers from reserve lands of Lax-kw'alaams so I would think they have an interest in the area as well.  The Haisla have part of the site within their territory.

The site is clearly on the obvious route between the Skeena River and the areas on Douglas Channel.   I have no doubt the site was heavily used by First Nations over millennia.

All of this means First Nations have strong aboriginal rights in the area.  Nothing can be done on this site without accommodation of the aboriginal rights which effectively means working with the First Nations as partners and assuming they have an almost ownership right to the land.

The first step in the refinery proposal has to be building strong positive relationships with the local First Nations, without that there is a high probability of the project not getting out of the starting block.
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