Council of Canadians supports 'A Last Stand for Lelu' film screening

The Council of Canadians assisted with the screening of 'A Last Stand for Lelu' in Vancouver (on unceded Musqueam, Skwxwú7mesh, and Tsleil Waututh territories) last night.

Vancouver-based Council of Canadians organizer AJ Klein and water campaigner Emma Lui were both at the film showing.

The description for the 24-minute documentary notes, "A great injustice is being done on Lelu Island near Prince Rupert, B.C., the sacred and traditional territory of the Lax Kw'alaams people for over 10,000 years. The B.C. provincial government is trying to green light the construction of a massive LNG terminal on the island – Pacific Northwest LNG, backed by Malaysian energy giant Petronas, without consent. The Lax Kw'alaams are the keepers of Lelu Island and its connected Flora Bank, a massive sand bar that is part of the Skeena River estuary and known by fisheries biologists as some of the most important salmon habitat in Canada."

The film focuses on the resistance by the Lax Kw'alaams to this LNG project.

The screening was a fundraiser for the Lax U'u'la Camp, where land defenders are in place to protect their traditional territory from the LNG terminal.

In Nov. 2015, Council of Canadians organizer Brigette DePape visited the camp at the invitation of Lax Kw’alaams Hereditary Chief Yahaan. DePape wrote afterwards, "When I traveled there, it was heartbreaking to see what could be lost if the LNG terminal proposal goes forward: the flora banks that would be drudged up for the bridge, the fishing livelihoods of friends who rely on the salmon to feed their families, the lush forest on Lelu island that is the home to so much incredible life like the beautiful blue stellar jays. ...It was also inspiring to meet the people who having been on the island for 84 days, many of them sleeping there and taking part in the construction of a permanent structure to protect the island."

In May 2015, in three community votes, Lax Kw’alaams members unanimously voted to reject the LNG project despite a cash offer of $1 billion from the Petronas.

But yesterday the Globe and Mail reported, "The Lax Kw’alaam Band, which threatened to block the Pacific NorthWest LNG project, now says it is willing to support the development – so long as the federal government establishes a committee that includes the First Nations community and enforces environmental standards. ...In a letter to federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, Lax Kw’alaam Mayor John Helin said the community had held further discussions on the project, which they had voted to oppose last year, and is willing to change its stance."

In response, Chief Yahaan says, "We have been betrayed by our elected leader. Elected band councils have no jurisdiction off of reserve land. Legal precedents in the Supreme Court of Canada are all in our favour as hereditary chiefs, and we will fight this to the end, whether the band council is on our side or not."

On March 11, the Council of Canadians made its formal submission to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency in opposition to the LNG terminal.

In that submission, Klein and Lui wrote, "We urge Minister of Environment and Climate change Catherine McKenna to reject the Pacific Northwest LNG terminal on Lelu Island. We call on the federal government to take steps to establishing a genuine nation-to-nation relationship with the Indigenous peoples on Lelu Island by respecting their land title rights and their position against the proposed terminal. We also urge Minister McKenna to review the changes the Harper government made to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, restore lost protections and implementing strict safeguards to protect fish life and ecosystems."

Yesterday, the Trudeau government approved the Woodfibre LNG terminal near Squamish and a federal decision on the Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal is expected within weeks.

To see a trailer for 'A Last Stand for Lelu', please click here.

Several Council of Canadians chapters will also be showing this film in the coming weeks.