An aboriginal community near Prince Rupert has sent a message: It’s not about the money.
The Lax Kw’alaams Band cancelled a news conference set for Wednesday that would have announced its decision on Pacific Northwest LNG’s $1.2-billion offer to build an liquefied natural gas plant on its land.
The band instead chose to issue a statement, saying the unanimous rejection comes after three community meetings held earlier this month.
It says the Skeena River Estuary is the first line of defence for the aboriginal food fishery, and members fear environment threats.
Pacific Northwest had offered the package, made up of payments, government land and jobs over 40 years, because it believes the First Nation should share in the project’s success.
The band adds it recognizes the financial benefits the project may have for B.C., and is open to finding a solution.
However, one band member, Elya White, disputes the claim the decision to reject the offer was unanimous.
She says she voted for the project at a meeting in Vancouver Tuesday night.
“The majority definitely voted no, which is fine, but myself and my father both voted yes.”
White also says there are questions about why the vote had to take place in person, with a show of hands.
“Because initially I didn’t stand up to vote yes. First, my father got up and he spoke. Then I got up and said I didn’t stand because I was afraid of being shouted at and whatever, but I eventually just didn’t care. It was something that I wanted to vote yes for and I needed to voice my opinion.”
White adds the process excluded hundreds, if not thousands of band members who could not show up for the in person meetings.
She notes band elections are held by ballot — and this could have been done too.
White says voting by a show of hands is not democratic because it allows for intimidation, adding many were not given the opportunity to vote, because it was in-person only.