With the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry knocking on Prince Rupert’s doorsteps, North Coast residents have been inundated with proposals and they’re sick of reacting. They want to proactively take charge of the future of their city whether that includes LNG or not.
This was the overarching message from approximately 25 attendees, who came to the community dialogue forum on LNG Thursday night hosted by the Northwest Institute for Bioregional Research’s LNG facilitator Valine Crist and West Coast Environmental Law’s (WCEL) staff counsel Hannah Askew. With the floor open to the public, familiar concerns were raised by residents and members from Dodge Cove, Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla, as well as other areas near proposal sites for the seven known LNG facilities.
But that wide range of concerns was exactly what Askew was looking for.
“We wanted to facilitate a conversation about regional strategic environmental assessments so that as people are responding to all of these different kinds of proposals, they have a chance to think about the vision of development that they have for their community and what their core values are that they want to protect,” said Askew after the three-hour discussion had ended.
“We got incredibly thoughtful and pretty diverse feedback from people who attended both [sessions], so it was really rich and rewarding
Askew and Crist will now take their findings from the night’s discussion and another forum they held that same morning and submit them in a report to be distributed to stakeholders and the public for consumption.
Murray Smith, hereditary chief for Lax Kw’alaams, opened the dialogue with a welcome and prayer.
Common themes that arose in the discussion were an increasing lack of access to beaches and green spaces, the effects the industry may have and is having on residents’ mental health, a depletion of healthy fish, First Nations groups working in conjunction with the industry, threatened wildlife on land and in the rivers and oceans, the routes of tankers, the city’s income gap and comparisons between Prince Rupert and Fort McMurray.
Infringement on others’ values was a popular topic as well for future generations who will call Prince Rupert home.
A few residents noted the healthy state of the medical care they currently receive and appreciate the level of service they’re getting in comparison to places like Fort St. John, which is dealing with a lack of family doctors.
A sense of connectedness and a sense of place was another concern raised by attendees as some feel newer or migrant workers won’t respect the city they inhabit the same way long-time residents do. Safety for the community was top-of-mind and many had issues with the idea of work camps being so close to neighbourhoods.
An executive director in Metlakatla raised a point about food security and the review process that local and provincial governments are taking – whether their current studies and assessments are satisfactory or not.