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Council of Treaty 8 Chiefs Note Passage of Alaska Gasline Inducement Act

Council of Treaty 8 Chiefs Note Passage of Alaska Gasline Inducement Act

TREATY 8 TERRITORY, NORTHEASTERN BRITISH COLUMBIA--(CCNMatthews - May 30, 2007) - The Council of Treaty 8 Chiefs (CTBC), representing six northeast British Columbia Treaty 8 First Nations, noted today the recent passage by the Alaska legislature of the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act (AGIA). The Act, designed to encourage the construction of a pipeline to transport Alaska natural gas to the lower 48 states [sic], specifies incentives the state is willing to offer potential pipeline developers and producers, what the state demands in return ("must haves"), various selection criteria and timelines. A Request for Applications (RFA) under the AGIA framework is to be issued by the Governor of Alaska on July 2, 2007, with proposals to be submitted by October 2007.

"We have been following the progress of this legislation closely," stated Chief Liz Logan, of the Fort Nelson First Nation, and spokesperson for the CT8C with regard to the proposed Alaska Highway Pipeline. "All potential proponents, and interested governments, must realize that any application, under the AGIA, that would route the pipeline through Treaty 8 Territory in northeastern British Columbia will have to take into full account our rights, under Treaty 8, to be consulted fully and meaningfully at all stages of the process, and to have our Interests accommodated."

Treaty 8, the eighth of eleven so-called "Numbered Treaties" entered into by the Crown and First Nations of Canada between 1871 and 1921, was first signed on June 21, 1889 at Lesser Slave Lake, Alberta. The treaty, which covers approximately 849,000 square kilometers of territory in Northeast British Columbia, Northern Alberta, Northwest Saskatchewan and southern portions of the Northwest Territories, guaranteed various rights to signatory First Nations. Among these is the positive duty of Crown Governments to consult with First Nations on decisions that affect their treaty rights, and to seek a workable accommodation between the interests and objectives of First Nations, and the objectives of the Crown and involved third parties. The scope and strength of these rights, protected by the Constitution of Canada, have been increased significantly by recent decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Chief Logan emphasized that the six Treaty 8 First Nations are not opposed, in principle, to the economic development of their territories. "We are fully aware that the construction and operation of a pipeline, for the transportation of Alaska North Slope gas through Treaty 8 British Columbia could, in various ways and in the proper circumstances, provide unique and unprecedented opportunities for the further economic development of our communities."

She stressed the desire of C8TC First Nations to participate fully in any application, that may be developed by potential proponents for submission under AGIA, that would route a pipeline through northeastern British Columbia. "To this end," said Chief Logan, "we are prepared to enter into a process whereby non-exclusive relationships between us and prospective applicants could be formalized, and have undertaken to suggest this course of action to various parties. We believe that proceeding in this way would be in everyone's best interests."

CTBC First Nations understand that any potential relationship must offer benefits to both parties. "However," stressed Chief Logan, "any pipeline through Treaty 8 British Columbia must be constructed and operated in a manner consistent with our existing treaty rights, with appropriate measures having been taken to alleviate social, economic and environmental impacts, in full partnership with us and subsequent to full and meaningful consultation and accommodation on these matters having taken place with us at all stages of the process." These, she said, "Are our 'must haves'."

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