Last update:

Gitwilgyoots and Lelu Island (Lax U'u'la) vs proposed Petronas LNG export facility, Canada

Gitwilgyoots (Lax Kwalaams Tsimshian First Nation) vs Petronas (Malaysian fossil fuel company) occupation of traditional territories to block major $30 billion LNG export facility in critical salmon habitat of the Skeena River.


Petronas, a Malaysian fossil fuel company, has a proposal for a $40 billion natural gas export facility on Lelu Island (Lax U'u'la in the Tsimshian language). The current BC Liberal party government headed by Christy Clark has been 100% behind all energy development, especially fracked gas.  The current federal Liberal party (led by Justin Trudeau) has fallen in line, supporting oil and gas against First Nations wishes, both generally and in this specific case. While fracking has widespread resistance in Canada, this project is particularly resisted because of its location.  Around Lelu Island is an eel grass habitat (the Flora Banks) which is essential for the transition of salmon from freshwater to saltwater.  Approximately 90% of the salmon of the Skeena River (the third largest salmon river in the world by number of salmon) spend their transition phase in this habitat, which scientists have shown would be obliterated by the changes in tidal flows caused by the construction of this export facility. The salmon population of the Skeena would be devastated. Because of its inevitable impact on the salmon, there is widespread resistance from communities and activist groups throughout the Skeena watershed and amongst fishermen of the region, the majority of whose salmon come from the Skeena.

See more
Basic Data
Name of conflict:Gitwilgyoots and Lelu Island (Lax U'u'la) vs proposed Petronas LNG export facility, Canada
State or province:British Columbia
Location of conflict:Lelu Island
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Water access rights and entitlements
Wetlands and coastal zone management
Ports and airport projects
Invasive species
Gas flaring
Shale gas fracking
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Oil and gas refining
Land acquisition conflicts
Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Aquaculture and fisheries
Specific commodities:Natural Gas
Project Details and Actors
Project details

CH4: The facility would produce as much as 19.2 million metric tons a year of LNG and open up a new trade route for Canadian gas to be shipped to Asia.

See more
Project area:100
Level of Investment for the conflictive project40,000,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:100,000
Start of the conflict:01/09/2015
End of the conflict:25/07/2017
Company names or state enterprises:PETRONAS from Malaysia
Relevant government actors:BC Liberals (Christy Clark- premier)
Liberal Party (Justin Trudeau - prime minister)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Gitwilgyoots clan of the Tsimshian:
Skeena Wild:
Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition:
Friends of Wild Salmon:
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Social movements
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
The Tsimshian First nation
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Noise pollution, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Other Environmental impactsMany concerns, but the biggest concern specific to this LNG plant is its placement on critical salmon habitat for the 3rd largest salmon bearing river in the world.
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Other Health impactsThese boom/bust projects have many health and social impacts associated with temporary man-camps
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors
Potential: Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Land demarcation
Court decision (undecided)
Strengthening of participation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project cancelled
Withdrawal of company/investment
Petronas announced a decision to not pursue the project on July 25, 2017
Proposal and development of alternatives:The First Nations communities don't want the project. "Life as is is just fine."
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:It has mobilized Gitwilgyoots to firmly claim their territorial rights. It is a crime that Gitwilgyoots and activists had to waste so much resources to prevent the project, but they were successful in preventing it. In a more just world Petronas would have to reimburse the community for forcing them to waste so much of their lives in resistance.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Delgamuukw v British Columbia Supreme Court ruling 1997: most BC First Nations never signed treaties and are recognized as having sovereign rights. The proper representatives are the traditional governments, not the imposed Indian Act band council governments. The government mus consult with these nations before any development happens on their land
[click to view]

Tsilhqot'in Nation v British Columbia 2014: Consultation means prior free and informed consent
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Carr-Harris, C., Gottesfeld, A. S., & Moore, J. W. (2015). Juvenile Salmon usage of the Skeena River estuary. PLoS ONE, 10(3), 1–14.

details juvenile salmon use of the Flora Banks and its critical nature for Skeena salmon

Kelly, A., & Brielle Morgan. (2016). Divide and Conquer: The Threatened Community at the Heart of the PNW LNG Project. Discourse Media, pp. 1–13.
[click to view]

website on interconnecting issues of First Nations sovereignty and environmental fights against extractivist industries in BC, Canada.
[click to view]

Desmog blog on dynamics of the conflict and Petronas final decision to cancel
[click to view]

CBC article on final Petronas decision to withdraw
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

site for the occupation of Lelu Island and how to support
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Karl Frost, PhD, Institut de Ciencia i Tecnologia Ambientals, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2554
Related conflicts
Legal notice / Aviso legal
We use cookies for statistical purposes and to improve our services. By clicking "Accept cookies" you consent to place cookies when visiting the website. For more information, and to find out how to change the configuration of cookies, please read our cookie policy. Utilizamos cookies para realizar el análisis de la navegación de los usuarios y mejorar nuestros servicios. Al pulsar "Accept cookies" consiente dichas cookies. Puede obtener más información, o bien conocer cómo cambiar la configuración, pulsando en más información.