LNG Development Can Aid Economic Reconciliation, Conference Hears

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Last month, a London, U.K. LNG event was organized on behalf of the Government of Alberta by Glacier Media (the parent company of the Daily Oil Bulletin) and the Canadian Society for Unconventional Resources (CSUR), to provide a special briefing to around 140 European energy investors and stakeholders. The DOB over the next few days is providing LNG-themed editorial coverage based on this event.


The growing involvement of Canadian First Nations in LNG and other resource development projects is contributing to economic reconciliation, moving them from poverty to the standard of living enjoyed by Canadians in general, a recent London LNG conference was told.

“To me, that goes, and must go, hand-in-hand with reconciliation, moving Canada forward in a mutually respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal groups,” Karen Ogen-Toews, CEO of the First Nations LNG Alliance, told the investor conference. The Alliance was established to help educate First Nations about LNG and what it means to Indigenous peoples, providing them with the information to make an informed decision on whether to support it.

The London event was organized on behalf of the Government of Alberta by Glacier Media (the parent company of the Daily Oil Bulletin) and the Canadian Society for Unconventional Resources (CSUR), to provide a special briefing to around 140 European energy investors and stakeholders.

First Nations have moved beyond merely having a say in resource projects and signing impact benefit agreements to investing in natural gas and LNG, said Ogen-Toews. 

“From coast to coast to coast, First Nations and their people are becoming known as business leaders and as solid partners to non-Indigenous companies,” she said.  “We have become an important player in the development of natural gas, LNG and other resources in Canada.” For example, the 900-member Fort MacKay band and its three companies in the oilsands have been bringing in more than $500,000 a year for the last few years, she said. “They call it community capitalism.”

For decades, resource companies simply walked onto Indigenous territories with the approval of federal and provincial governments, she said. “They drilled, they built pipelines, they built processing plants and they carried on their business without First Nations having a say in any of it.”

However, based on successful court cases on land, title and rights, British Columbia’s 204 First Nations finally have a say in the development of natural gas pipelines and LNG on their lands.

“The truth is, it has become a fact you really can’t do your business on First Nations land without the consent of the affected First Nations,” said Ogen-Toews. And while the Supreme Court of Canada has held that a First Nation does not have a strict legal veto over development proposals, the courts and others have held that consultation and accommodation are vital elements to be delivered today before governments give the green light to a resource project, she said.

In the B.C. Lower Mainland, the Squamish Nation has developed a working partnership with Woodfibre LNG, developing a unique environmental assessment agreement and issuing its own environmental certificate for the project, the conference was told.  Driven by the Squamish, Woodfibre changed its plans to use sea water cooling at its facility, agreeing instead to use air cooling, said Ogen-Toews. As the project moves towards its launch, the Squamish are the defacto regulators and keep a watchful eye on its environmental impacts, she said.

The Haisla in B.C. also have a long list of non-Indigenous companies with whom it has working partnerships including LNG Canada, Coastal GasLink, Kitimat LNG and Pacific Trails Pipeline. Crystal Smith, Haisla chief councillor and LNG Alliance chair, has said her people supported the projects because they concluded they would be built responsibly for their environment and allow their people to flourish, said Ogen-Toews.

The Haisla, she said, also supported LNG and Coastal GasLink because the proponents have approached them from a position of respect for First Nations and their people, respecting First Nations expertise when it comes to their territory and culture.