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Gitxaala responds to Lax Kw’alaams Lelu Island title claim

Another North Coast First Nation has responded in the wake of a title claim made to Lelu Island by the Lax Kw’alaams Band.

Gitxaala Chief Cliff White calls statements made by the Lax Kw’alaams regarding other Tsimshian community dealings with the proponents of the Pacific NorthWest LNG project “disappointing”.

In a news release, White goes on to say that it is “irresponsible for Lax Kw’alaams to take an adversarial position with other Tsimshian nations on the Petronas project.”

Lax Kw’alaams vehemently opposes the use of Lelu Island as the site for the multi-billion dollar LNG terminal over the potential harm to vital salmon habitat located at Flora Bank. It announced last week that it was seeking Aboriginal title to the area so that it would have final say over whether the project could proceed.

White says the Gitxaala will not move to a final agreement on the Petronas-backed project until all potential impacts on community health, LNG safety, and the environment are met to its satisfaction.

“Our level of review for the Petronas project is no different than our review of the Northern Gateway Pipeline. Gitxaala Environmental Monitoring (GEM) is actively involved in the CEAA process to ensure proper due diligence for this project occurs,” says White. “The potential economic benefits are second to the environment values. The environment has always been, and will always be our first priority.”

The Metlakatla First Nation spoke out on the title claim last Friday. It says while its concerns over the project have not been resolved, the nation will continue to participate in the Canadian Environmental Assessment process; a process it says will ultimately be the deciding factor on whether the Metlakatla supports the project.

The Metlakatla, Gitga’at, Kitselas, Kitsumkalum, and Gitxaala are all members of the Tsimshian Environmental Stewardship Authority which was formed in July of this year.

White says the Gitxaala continues to work cooperatively with other Tsimshian nations in the tradition of Bak Laansk—pulling together.  He says Tsimshian communities need to work together to ensure that projects in their shared territory or properly reviewed.

Although the he Lax Kw’alaams has a standing invitation to the Tsimshian Environmental Stewardship Authority, it has yet to join.

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