Treaty 8 chief discusses resource project problems

  • Nov. 14, 2013 12:00 p.m.

by Laura Bishop–About 100 islanders in both Skidegate and Old Massett heard Treaty 8 Tribal Chief Liz Logan share how resource development has left water undrinkable, animals diseased, and cancer rates skyrocketing in her territory last weekend. Ms Logan travelled far to share her experience, yet within a few years Fort St. John and the Hecate Strait coastline are projected to be connected by several oil and gas pipelines. “One of the reasons I agreed to come and do this talk outside our territory is because we need to create awareness. Everybody is talking about the energy corridor and the transportation of oil and natural gas, but nobody’s talking about the extraction zone. If LNG goes ahead, our research says there could be upwards of 6,500 more wells coming out of Treaty 8 territory,” she said. Over 29,000 wells have been drilled for gas in northeastern BC since 1942. Ms Logan reminded people that each of those wells has a road, facilities, cut lines, cleared pads, trucks and waste; there’s lots of impact for one well, she said. Treaty 8 territory covers thirty percent of BC, but contains most of the province’s resource extraction, including forestry, mining, power generation, oil and gas. “We’re the cash register of the province,” says Ms Logan. “If it weren’t for our oil and gas, they wouldn’t have any general revenue.” Even so, she doubts the BC government realizes the cost of the profits and the toll that development has taken on land, water, wildlife and people. “We’re telling government and industry before they even start thinking about LNG, they’d better start talking to us and start looking at the cumulative impacts of all of this development over the last six decades. They need to change the way they do business and the way they do work on our lands, because we don’t know when we’re going to reach that tipping point and there’s no going backwards,” she said. Experience has shown, Ms Logan said, that when it comes to contamination, there is no easy way to undo the damage. The Treaty 8 territory is the site of some of the province’s oldest pipelines and they’re starting to leak. Some of the most destructive are the Peejay Oil Spill, which affected 16 hectares of muskeg and the Pine River Oil Spill, which killed thousands of fish and birds. Both took years to clean and have not fully recovered. When Treaty 8 Tribal Association teamed up with Health Canada, their research showed that unfenced sump pits attracted deer and moose who mistake the saline-rich pools for a mineral lick or drinking pond. Seventy-five percent of the sites tested were positive for contamination, resulting in sick animals with abscessed organs and in-consumable meat. And, says Ms Logan, because the BC government has requested that industry self report infractions, the oil spills get downplayed and the sump pits go without reclamation. Ms Logan is not opposed to resource development. It’s the only source of jobs in the territory and the environment and animals are so damaged it is no longer possible to rely on “the economy of the land”. For Ms Logan, it’s about balance. Treaty 8 will be presenting its LNG strategy and requesting a regional environmental assessment when they meet with provincial ministers this month. She hopes they can, “…find ways to optimize benefits, minimize impacts and hopefully understand and encourage the balancing of values to ensure the best economic and environmental outcome available for everyone.” Ms Logan invites people to attend the First Nations LNG Summit to be held in Fort St. John from March 4 to 6. For more information on the First Nations LNG strategy you can visit Ms Logan was invited to Haida Gwaii by the Council of the Haida Nation and spoke in Skidegate on Friday and Old Massett on Saturday. The CHN will be discussing LNG along with other things, at its House of Assembly meetings, Wednesday and Thursday (Nov. 13 and 14).