Recent History – 2001-2003
August 19, 2003 — Gary Ahuja, Alaska Highway News
Saulteau First Nations has filed a petition in the B.C. Supreme court to challenge a planned petroleum project in the Peace-Moberly Tract claiming their way of life and culture will be threatened.
“We are concerned about the the cumulative effects of Vintage’s project in combination with large-scale petroleum development, forestry, agriculture and other pressures,” stated Saulteau Chief
Alan Apsassin in a press release issued Friday. “The introduction of petroleum projects in this small but important area could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Our land will be ruined, our way of life and culture threatened and our treaty rights will suffer the death of a thousand cuts.”
The Oil and Gas Commission approved a well site and access road proposed by Vintage Energy Canada Ltd. in March 2003. The approval will allow Vintage to undertake exploratory drilling operations in the area this winter.
“Our legal advice has been not to comment in any way because it is before the court,” said Harleen Price, a spokesperson for the OGC. Saulteau First Nations stated that they are concerned the impacts of the project and the introduction of large-scale petroleum development in the area will harm the community over the long-term, degrade the local eco-system and infringe their rights protected by Treaty 8. They are asking for the court to put the project on hold until the appropriate assessment, planning and study can occur.
“We think we are proposing a reasonable science-based approach,” the release states. “What we want to know is how much development can the Peace-Moberly Tract realistically absorb?”
The band says the area is used heavily for hunting, fishing, trapping and other cultural and socio-economic purposes and do not want to see the area go through the same problems that other areas have encountered.
“With the pressures the Blueberry and Doig have seen we don’t want those conditions coming here,” said a Saulteau spokesperson, who asked not to be named.
“We are not saying no to oil and gas extraction, but what we are saying is that the speed they are going into these areas, they are hitting them pretty fast and heavy.” “It scares us, we just don’t feel our way of life can be protected,” she added. “We think we are being reasonable. We are not saying no to tests, just slow it down.”
The petition was filed in court on July 31 with the case scheduled to go to trial in Victoria the week of Oct. 20, said Robert Freedman, one of the lawyers for the band.