Is There Indigenous Support for LNG Projects in Canada?

Key Points

Several Indigenous communities fully support a number of emerging LNG projects on Canada's West Coast

• First Nations are partners in the development of most of these new LNG facilities

• A majority of Indigenous Peoples in Canada support natural resource development

Construction at LNG Canada in Kitimat, BC

Construction at LNG Canada in Kitimat, B.C. - LNG Canada

You may be surprised that a majority of Indigenous Peoples in Canada support resource development, including many who are in favour of the construction of LNG export facilities on the West Coast. But is that really true? You bet it is, and here's proof!

Canada's opportunity to export some of the lowest carbon-footprint gas in the world to global consumers is being championed by Indigenous communities looking to give their people a chance to escape poverty and have hope for the future.

Cedar LNG and Ksi Lisims LNG are two of these said projects, both to be built on Indigenous lands. How the provincial and federal governments will react to the Haisla and Nisga'a First Nations' right to economic reconciliation through the development of natural resources on their respective territories – as outlined in Bill C-15 – is yet to be seen. But if the approval of the Squamish-backed Woodfibre LNG is any indicator of what's to come, then the Haisla and Nisga'a should be rather optimistic.

Last June, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (UNDRIP) received Royal Assent from the House of Commons. The Act (Bill C-15) provides Canadian governments with a road map to advance lasting reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. According to UNDRIP, the Haisla and Nisga'a First Nations should now have the right to say 'yes' to major LNG projects on their territories. These export facilities would bring billions of dollars of economic benefits to remote communities and generate billions more in government revenues while providing global consumers with some of the least GHG-intensive LNG in the world.

First Nations, Canadians and the global environment have everything to gain by constructing LNG export facilities on the West Coast. An IRN poll and other concrete evidence shows a majority of Indigenous Peoples are supportive of these projects.

Most Indigenous Peoples Support Resource Development

A majority of Indigenous Peoples support

A recent poll by the Indigenous Resource Network (IRN) confirms widespread Indigenous support for natural resource projects. It found:

> 65% of Indigenous Peoples in Canada support natural resource development – vs. 23% opposed

> 54% would support a new resource project if proposed near their community – vs. 26% opposed

According to respondents, the reason for high support for natural resource development among Indigenous Peoples is clear: heightened economic activity provides better access to healthcare while also bettering other socio-economic issues within their communities.

"Indigenous peoples have been using their lands and resources for thousands of years. This is not new to us," stated Arnie Bellis, Chair of the IRN advisory board. "What we want is meaningful inclusion and ownership in the development of our own resources. This will create jobs for our young peoples and provide them with opportunities to develop their intellect." 

John Desjarlais, also an IRN advisory board member, is happy the poll's findings confirm what he has heard from many of his peers all along.

"This helps confirm what we've seen and heard in our communities. Most of us are not opposed to resource development. We are opposed to being left out. In particular, the poll finds that best practices in environmental protection, economic benefits and high safety standards lead to increased Indigenous support for projects," Desjarlais said.

As the IRN poll suggests, it is abundantly clear that a majority of Indigenous Peoples in Canada support natural resource development. Here are a few of the current LNG projects being backed by several First Nations in Western Canada.

Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project

Coastal GasLink First Nations Elected Councils Support

Map of First Nations Supporting CGL - TC Energy

The Coastal GasLink (CGL) project is a provincially regulated pipeline spanning from gas fields in northeastern B.C. to the LNG Canada processing plant in Kitimat on the West Coast.

LNG Canada is projected to be one of the least greenhouse gas (GHG) intensive facilities of its kind in the world by sourcing most of its electricity from B.C.'s expansive renewable energy grid. The facility will export up to 14 million tonnes per annum of responsibly produced Canadian LNG to Asian markets, where it will displace coal-fired power generation and help reduce global CO2 emissions.

All 20 nations along the route of the pipeline have had their elected band councils sign benefit agreements with CGL. These First Nations could not be any clearer in showing their support for the project, which would bring immense economic benefits to their communities. Signatories include:

  • Stellat’en First Nation
  • Saik'uz First Nation
  • McLeod Lake Indian Band
  • Saulteau First Nations
  • Kitselas First Nation
  • West Moberly First Nations
  • Lheidli T’enneh First Nation
  • Nadleh Whut'en Indian Band
  • Burns Lake Indian Band (Ts'il Kaz Koh First Nation)
  • Blueberry River First Nations
  • Halfway River First Nation
  • Doig River First Nation
  • Wet'suwet'en First Nation
  • Yekooche First Nation
  • Nee Tahi Buhn Indian Band
  • Skin Tyee First Nation
  • Witset First Nation
  • Nak'azdli Whut'en
  • Haisla Nation

To date, CGL has facilitated more than 26,000 engagements with Indigenous groups to listen to their concerns since the start of the project. The company also implemented a construction monitoring program that invites Indigenous Peoples to observe and report back to their communities on construction activities within their respective territories to allow for heightened transparency and accountability.

"We have a seat at the table, we have a voice, we're there, we're being heard. They hired our knowledge holders and they took them out on the land. They did land studies, they did animal studies, they did plant studies. They hired our knowledge holders to tell them what needs to be saved and how to do it properly. That's never happened before. And I'm so so happy that we have a voice, we're at the table, we have this opportunity. And that, to me, is reconciliation," said Candice George, a Wet'suwet'en member, in regards to CGL.

Haisla Nation, one of the First Nations to sign in support of Coastal GasLink, has now proposed building its very own LNG export facility within its territory. Like LNG Canada, Cedar LNG will be built within the Kitimat area on B.C.'s northwestern coast and, if approved, will provide consumers with some of the lowest carbon footprint gas in the world.

Cedar LNG Project

Cedar LNG Project Canada 2

Cedar LNG Project Map - Cedar LNG

The Cedar LNG Project is a proposed floating LNG facility located within the traditional territory of the Haisla Nation near Kitimat, B.C. The project is positioned to leverage Canada's abundant natural gas supply and B.C.'s growing LNG infrastructure to provide world-leading, low-carbon, low-cost Canadian LNG for new overseas markets.

By implementing innovative design, Cedar LNG's facility will minimize the impact on the local ecosystem and create prosperity for both the Haisla Nation and others living in the region. It will also be one of Canada's largest Indigenous Nation-owned infrastructure projects with one of the cleanest environmental profiles in the world.

Based on 2020 estimates, up to 500 people will be working at the Cedar LNG site at the peak of construction and up to 100 people will be working at the facility full-time during operation.

Recently, the Haisla Nation and Pembina Pipeline Corporation announced a partnership agreement to develop Cedar LNG Project.

"It was important for us to find a partner with the same values of environmental protection and community-centered development," said Crystal Smith, Chief Councillor of the Haisla Nation. Smith is also an avid supporter of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

"Pembina's long history of safe, reliable operations and engagement with local communities made them the distinct choice for Cedar LNG. With a strong partnership, Cedar LNG will bring tremendous economic opportunities and benefits, ensuring the Haisla people have control of our own future," Crystal said.

Pending approvals and other authorizations, a final investment decision is anticipated in 2023, with commercial operations projected to begin in 2027.

Like Cedar LNG, Woodfibre LNG is yet another upcoming project in Canada supported by the Indigenous communities.

Woodfibre LNG Project

Woodfibre LNG project location JPG

Future Site of Woodfibre LNG - Woodfibre LNG

Woodfibre LNG is an Indigenous-backed LNG export facility currently in the pre-construction phase located near Squamish, B.C. For nearly 100 years, the site was used as a pulp and paper mill, which closed in 2006.

Since the launch of Woodfibre LNG, the project has received three environmental approvals: from the provincial and federal governments, and the Squamish Nation. Woodfibre's consent process with the Squamish Nation is the first-ever environmental approval by Indigenous Peoples for a resource project in the absence of a treaty. Woodfibre LNG has also named the Squamish Nation as a full participating regulator for the project.

"Since 2013, we have contributed over $3 million to the Squamish community in taxes and contributions, approximately $10 million in contracts to Squamish Nation business partners, and over $12 million in the cleanup and remediation of the Woodfibre site," said David Keane, President of Woodfibre LNG. "Community has always come first for us at Woodfibre – and we are proud to continue to invest in the community and in our Squamish Nation partners."

Once operational, Woodfibre LNG will create over 100 full-time, well-paying jobs based in Squamish and contribute over $80 million per year in taxes to the government. Woodfibre will also design and deliver programs to support First Nations employment and contracting opportunities, skills training and education opportunities.

Like Ksi Lisims LNG, another Indigenous-backed project on Canada’s West Coast, sustainability efforts to use renewable hydroelectricity for power will make Woodfibre one of the cleanest LNG export facilities in the world.

Ksi Lisims LNG Project

eva clayton supports Ksi Lisims LNG project in Canada

Ksi Lisims LNG is a proposed floating LNG export facility within the territory of Nisga'a Nation on B.C.'s northwestern coast. The project's partners - the Nisga'a Nation, Western LNG, and Rockies LNG – propose a facility with 12 million tonnes of LNG export capacity per year, destined for markets primarily in Asia where demand for natural gas continues to skyrocket.

"We want to bring sustainable economic activity, not only to the Nass Valley but to the region," said Eva Clayton, President of the Nisga'a Nation. "It's going to also assist in helping to fight poverty and to bring a prosperous future."

Ksi Lisims LNG is expected to generate $55 billion in economic activity over its lifespan, which will benefit communities in B.C. and trickle down into other Canadian provinces.

For Indigenous Nations, Ksi Lisims LNG will create education, training, employment, contracting and social and cultural investment opportunities. Project proponents plan to achieve net zero GHG emissions within three years of start-up.

Ksi Lisims LNG is in the early planning stages with environmental assessment work, Indigenous and community engagement, and preliminary engineering evaluations. After regulatory approvals and a final investment decision by project partners, construction could begin in 2024 with the site operational in late 2027 or 2028.

Support Indigenous-Backed Resource Development

Many Indigenous Peoples in Canada are not against natural resource development, but rather are against being left out of the conversation and the prosperity generated by such projects. Most resource projects are located in rural areas, and more than half of Registered Indigenous Peoples in Canada live in remote communities. In many instances, the development of natural resources creates the only well-paying, long-term jobs available to Indigenous Peoples and others living in the vast Canadian wilderness.

The IRN's recent poll also found that a majority of Indigenous Peoples were more likely to support resource development if the project:

  • Includes best practices in protecting the environment (79%)
  • Provides economic benefits such as jobs, business opportunities and revenues for the community (77%)
  • Has best practices in safety (77%)
  • Consults the community (69%)
  • Receives community support to proceed (62%)

Canada's three LNG projects mentioned above have clearly shown that they meet these conditions, and even exceed them in several ways. LNG Canada, the export facility fed by the Coastal GasLink pipeline, also has shown its world-class status as it is projected to operate with about 50 per cent of the GHG emission intensity of the global LNG facility average.

Archie Patrick, Chief of the Stellat'en First Nation – and many other Indigenous leaders within their respective communities – are now coming out and supporting major projects like CGL, Cedar, Ksi Lisims and Woodfibre.

"We, as Native People, have been kept on the outside looking in. This is an instance where we are part of the group that's inside. And this is just the beginning," said Chief Patrick.

We can't wait to see the long-lasting and positive impacts on both Indigenous and Canadian communities to come from these LNG projects. With world-class emission profiles and economic prosperity to gain, it only makes sense for Canadians to put their full support behind Indigenous-backed LNG projects for the betterment of all communities in Canada AND the global environment!

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