Thursday, August 27, 2015

Blockading Lelu Island, Defending the Last of the Wilds

First Nations occupying Lelu Island, blocking early Petronas LNG work

by Damien Gillis - Common Sense Canadian

The battle over Malaysian energy giant Petronas’ controversial LNG terminal in the Skeena River Estuary is intensifying, as local Lax Kw’alaams First Nation members are setting up camp on Lelu Island, near Prince Rupert – the site of the proposed project.

A barge carrying equipment related to geotechnical work for Petronas’ proposed Lelu Island LNG plant (facebook)

“Basically we’re going to be occupying our traditional land, exercising our rights, harvesting whatever natural resources we have” says Joey Wesley, a member of the Lax Kw’alaams band.

A recently-launched facebook page spearheading the campaign has garnered over a thousand likes in just a few days.

Members of the Lax Kw’alaams recently rejected $1.15 Billion in promised economic benefits and a large parcel of crown land – offered in exchange for signing onto the project – over concerns of its potential impacts on wild salmon.

The occupation of Lelu Island, led by several hereditary chiefs, was sparked by recent sightings of a barge carrying equipment into the area for investigative work by Petronas’ contractors (pictured here).

“The work at Lelu Island investigating geotechnical conditions there is beginning imminently, and Pacific Northwest LNG has indicated that it will continue through to November,” confirms the Port Authority’s Michael Gurney – as reported by local CFTK TV.

“We are here to protect Flora Banks and Lelu Island from development from LNG company – namely Petronas,” states Hereditary Chief Sm’oogyet Yahan (Don Wesley Sr.) in the above video by Skeena Wild, as fellow community members work on constructing the camp. He notes that the Island has been used as a homestead by his people for over 10,000 years.

“The people of Lax Kw’alaams have unanimously voted ‘No’ against the project because of devastation it would cause to Flora Banks. It’s a habitat for juvenile migrating slamon, crabs, eulachon, halibut.”
“We have had people on Lelu Island doing looking for sites for test drilling…We are here and we’re telling the people of Canada and British Columbia that we’re not giving up Flora Banks.”

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.
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