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Gitxsan First Nation Chiefs Prohibit Pipelines in Territory, Canada


In June, 2014 Gitxsan chiefs unanimously announced that they would discontinue discussions on all pipeline development on Gitxsan lands, due to the Crown illegally giving Gitxsan land to Tsimshian First Nation. The Gitxsan Nation claims strong prima facie rights and title to these territories since contact was made in 1846 [2, 10] Shortly after, Gitxsan First Nation Luutkudziiwus, Xsim Wits’iin and Noola chiefs declared that all natural-gas pipeline projects on their territory are prohibited, with a special reference to TransCanada Corporation’s Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Pipeline. The Rupert Gas Pipeline would cross Madii Lii territory over 32 kilometres. There is reportedly no interest in negotiating [1] A press release on the Gitxsan Nation website traces the conflict back to a fraudulent consultation process beginning in September, 2012. (10) The Canadian government had offered 12 million CAD plus over 2 million CAD as a signing bonus in a letter to the Gitxsan Nation in return for allowing the Prince Rupert Gas Pipeline and the Westcoast Connector Gas Transmission Project to cross their territories.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Gitxsan First Nation Chiefs Prohibit Pipelines in Territory, Canada
State or province:British Columbia
Location of conflict:Gitxsan territory, some near Hazelton
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
Shale gas fracking
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Oil and gas refining
Specific commodities:Land
Natural Gas
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Print Rupert Gas Transmission project details:

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Project area:33,000 sq. km (Gitxsan territory)
Level of Investment for the conflictive project5,000,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:5,000-60,000
Start of the conflict:01/09/2012
Company names or state enterprises:TransCanada Corp. from Canada - Owner/builder of proposed Prince Rupert Natural Gas Pipeline
Pacific NorthWest LNG from Canada - This facility would be the end destination of the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Project.
Progress Energy Canada Ltd. from Canada - Produces the gas that would go through the pipeline
PETRONAS from Malaysia - Progress Energy Canada, the producer of the gas, is a wholly owned subsidiary of PETRONAS. Pacific NorthWest LNG is majority owned by PETRONAS.
Relevant government actors:Canadian government; British Columbia provincial government; Gitxsan authorities; Gitxsan Treaty Society; Tsimshian First Nation; B.C. Treaty Commission and Crowns
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:The Council of Canadians; The 'JLS' Report
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local government/political parties
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Issuing of eviction notices asking companies to leave their territory
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsnatural gas spills, negative impact on juvenile salmon population at site of proposed liquefaction and export facility
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Under negotiation
Proposal and development of alternatives:Canada's Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favour of the Tsilhqot'in Nation on June 26th, 2014, "recognizing Aboriginal title for the first time in Canadian history". The ruling applied to the territory of the Xeni Gwet'in First Nation, which is one community out of six within the Tsilhqot'in Nation. Following the ruling, Tsilhqot'in Nation Chiefs and B.C. Premier Christy Clark signed a Letter of Understanding to commit to a just reconciliation. The letter also provides a foundation for longer term negotiations. One part of the letter specifically focuses on "initiatives that explore economic opportunities, and improve the health, education and socio-economic well-being of the Tsilhqot'in people". (8) Though the Gitxsan Nation was not involved in this case, the ruling provides precedent for other First Nations in similar circumstances and could open doors to alternatives to pipeline development in First Nations' territories. Gwaans Negotiator for Gitxsan Hereditary Cheifs, Beverly Clifton Percival, stated that the Tsilhqot'in ruling signifies that "For the Gitxsan it means the Crown Canada and B.C. must immediately withdraw the illegal offer of Gitxsan Lands in the neighbouring treaty offers." She also said that the ruling "has huge implications on resource development in the Province and Canada". (9)
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Though Gitxsan chiefs have issued strong and non-negotiable statements regarding their territory, time will tell if the Canadian government and corporations involved will illegally continue with the project or not.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Section 35 of the constitution act related to Aboriginal and

treaty rights
[click to view]

Delgamuukw Supreme Court decision mandating that Gitxsan hereditary house chiefs be consulted about impacts to their lands
[click to view]

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

(5) Pacific NorthWest LNG website press release about Prince Rupert Gas Pipeline
[click to view]

(7) Government Report on Shale Gas activity, pg. 11 on Montney Play
[click to view]

(9) Press release from Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs regarding the Supreme Court ruling on Tsilhqot'in territory and its significance for the Gitxsan Nation
[click to view]

(10) Gitxsan website press release regarding discontinuation of LNG pipeline discussions
[click to view]

(8) Press release regarding the Supreme Court ruling on Tsilhqot'in territory
[click to view]

(2) Article: Gitxsan discontinue discussions on all LNG pipelines
[click to view]

(6) Progress Energy website description of fracking
[click to view]

(11) Blog criticizing the Canadian government's use of money to gain support for pipeline
[click to view]

(4) Progress Energy site that explains ownership by PETRONAS
[click to view]

(12) Article describing controversy around faked Gitxsan chief signatures in support of LNG pipeline
[click to view]

(3) Pacific NorthWest LNG site that explains ownership by PETRONAS
[click to view]

(1) Article: 'Gitxsan Chiefs bar natural gas projects from territory near Hazelton, BC'
[click to view]

Pacific NorthWest LNG site
[click to view]

Blog post on resistance to LNG pipeline development in B.C.
[click to view]

Gitxsan First Nation website
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Flashmob in TransCanada open house (video)
[click to view]

Camp Madii Lii, Gitxsan Nation - LNG PROHIBITED (video)
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Lena Weber, Lund University Department of Human Geography, Human Ecology Division
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1545
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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