Members of the WSANEC first nations communities on the Saanich Peninsula used Wednesday’s National Aboriginal Day to reaffirm their opposition to liquefied natural gas (LNG) development in the Saanich Inlet.
Elders from the Tseycum, Tsartlip, Pauquachin and Tsawout first nations gathered with non-aboriginal supporters on June 21 for a Paddle and Potluck event that started with a mass kayak and canoe trip across the Inlet. Setting off from the Tsartlip boat ramp near Brentwood Bay, the flotilla of more than 50 small craft set off across the Saanich Inlet to Bamberton, where they would turn around and head back to attend a potluck meal at the Tseycum longhouse in North Saanich.
Tsartlip Chief Don Tom addressed the crowd that gathered at the boat ramp and reiterated his stance on the proposed Steelhead LNG plant and floating loading dock. He and the chiefs of the three other WSANEC communities invoked their treaty rights tte Saanich Inlet in March 2016, declaring their opposition to the Steelhead LNG proposal.
“We are opposed to the tanker traffic and we are opposed to the floating LNG facility,” he said. “This has no place here in the inlet. This is liquefied frak gas, leave it in the ground.”
Tom said people have the responsibility to look after the land — especially those who live within the WSANEC community.
“This land, these waters, have taken care of us for generations, and we must do your part to ensure we look after it as much as it as looked after us.”
Tom added the support shown at the Aboriginal Day event encourages his community to continue the fight.
“We are all opposed to Steelhead LNG. This project will not happen as long as we are here.”
Paddler and North Saanich resident Sharon Forrester says people should do everything they can to protect the Inlet from the Steelhead LNG proposal.
“We can get out to different parts of the Inlet,” she said. “More boat traffic would certainly be a threat. If the marine environment is threatened, we lose this clean water. That’s why I’m here.”
Tom added the day was a beautiful one to recognize first nations’ ancestry and Douglas Treaty rights around the Saanich Inlet.
Pauquachin Chief Rebecca Harris said the strength and unity shown on Wednesday will help protect their homeland against local LNG development.
“I want to raise my hands up to everyone today and thank you for the support,” she said. “Let’s show Steelhead we’re in strong opposition today.”
Other local elders vowed to protect the Inlet by any means necessary against LNG project development.
The Paddle and Potluck was organized by local WSANEC elders, the Saanich Inlet Network and Pacifica Paddle Sports.