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Gitxsan First Nation Chiefs Prohibit Pipelines in Territory, Canada


In June, 2014 Gitxsan chiefs unanimously announced that they would discontinue discussions on all pipeline development on Gitxsan lands, due to the Crown illegally giving Gitxsan land to Tsimshian First Nation. The Gitxsan Nation claims strong prima facie rights and title to these territories since contact was made in 1846 [2, 10] Shortly after, Gitxsan First Nation Luutkudziiwus, Xsim Wits’iin and Noola chiefs declared that all natural-gas pipeline projects on their territory are prohibited, with a special reference to TransCanada Corporation’s Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Pipeline. The Rupert Gas Pipeline would cross Madii Lii territory over 32 kilometres. There is reportedly no interest in negotiating [1] A press release on the Gitxsan Nation website traces the conflict back to a fraudulent consultation process beginning in September, 2012. (10) The Canadian government had offered 12 million CAD plus over 2 million CAD as a signing bonus in a letter to the Gitxsan Nation in return for allowing the Prince Rupert Gas Pipeline and the Westcoast Connector Gas Transmission Project to cross their territories.

[11] In July, eight Gitxsan hereditary chiefs issued an eviction notice calling for all loggers, sports fishers, and the Canadian National Railway to vacate the territory by August 4th, a deadline that was later extended to September 16th after Canadian Rail won an injunction pending a threatened Gitxsan blockade.

[1] Conflict also arose in May when several Gitxsan hereditary chiefs accused LNG and the Gitxsan Development Corporation of faking signatures of hereditary chiefs in approval of the LNG pipeline, when the chiefs in question were not aware that someone was signing on behalf of them [12] Richard Wright, speaking on behalf of the house of Luutkudizii, stated that the formal notice barring pipelines from three Gitxsan chiefs issued to the B.C. government came as a response to ongoing negotiations between the government and Gitxsan Treaty Society (GTS) and Gitxsan Development Corp. The house of Luutkudizii is participating in a lawsuit that questions the validity of the GTS and its ability to speak on behalf of all Gitxsan people [1] Wright pointed to particular environmental concerns, including the possibility of a pipe spill infiltrating creeks and the Suskwa, Bulkley River, and Skeena River, which would kill off salmon used for sustenance by the Gitxsan peoples [1]. Other feared environmental impacts include the potential for LNG electrical power plants and subsequent reduced air quality [11].

Pacific NorthWest LNG, the proposed facility to liquefy and export the natural gas arriving via the Rupert pipeline, and Progress Energy Canada ltd., the producer of the gas, are both owned by PETRONAS, Malaysia's national oil company [3, 4].

The pipeline itself would transport gas from North Montney near Fort St. John, B.C. to the proposed liquefaction facility in Port Edward, near Prince Rupert, B.C. [5] Natural gas in North Montney is extracted via shale fracking (hydraulic fracturing) [6, 7].

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Gitxsan First Nation Chiefs Prohibit Pipelines in Territory, Canada
State or province:British Columbia
Location of conflict:Gitxsan territory, some near Hazelton
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Shale gas fracking
Oil and gas refining
Specific commodities:Land
Natural Gas

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Print Rupert Gas Transmission project details:

-Prince Rupert pipeline would transport 2 billion to 3.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. (3)

-Starts near Fort St. John, B.C.

-Ends at proposed Pacific Northwest LNG facility in Port Edward, B.C.

-Length (without Coastal GasLink Pipeline) would be 750 km of pipe (large diameter)

--Together with Coastal GasLink Pipeline would be 1,400 km of pipeline, added to existing 24,000 km of natural gas pipeline in Western Canada and 360 km of pending pipeline in B.C.

-It is estimated that 2,500 construction jobs will take place over three years

-Cost is currently estimated at around 5 billion USD (as of 2012)

-End of construction planned for 2018


TransCanada stats:

-Controls more than 68,500 km of natural gas pipeline in North America

-Have 380 billion cubic feet of storage

-Owns or is invested in more than 11,800 megawatts of power generation in the US and Canada


Project area:33,000 sq. km (Gitxsan territory)
Level of Investment:5,000,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:5,000-60,000
Start of the conflict:01/09/2012
Company names or state enterprises:TransCanada Corp. from Canada - Owner/builder of proposed Prince Rupert Natural Gas Pipeline
Pacific NorthWest LNG from Canada - This facility would be the end destination of the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Project.
Progress Energy Canada Ltd. from Canada - Produces the gas that would go through the pipeline
PETRONAS from Malaysia - Progress Energy Canada, the producer of the gas, is a wholly owned subsidiary of PETRONAS. Pacific NorthWest LNG is majority owned by PETRONAS.
Relevant government actors:Canadian government; British Columbia provincial government; Gitxsan authorities; Gitxsan Treaty Society; Tsimshian First Nation; B.C. Treaty Commission and Crowns
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:The Council of Canadians; The 'JLS' Report

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local government/political parties
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Issuing of eviction notices asking companies to leave their territory


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsnatural gas spills, negative impact on juvenile salmon population at site of proposed liquefaction and export facility
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Under negotiation
Development of alternatives:Canada's Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favour of the Tsilhqot'in Nation on June 26th, 2014, "recognizing Aboriginal title for the first time in Canadian history". The ruling applied to the territory of the Xeni Gwet'in First Nation, which is one community out of six within the Tsilhqot'in Nation. Following the ruling, Tsilhqot'in Nation Chiefs and B.C. Premier Christy Clark signed a Letter of Understanding to commit to a just reconciliation. The letter also provides a foundation for longer term negotiations. One part of the letter specifically focuses on "initiatives that explore economic opportunities, and improve the health, education and socio-economic well-being of the Tsilhqot'in people". (8) Though the Gitxsan Nation was not involved in this case, the ruling provides precedent for other First Nations in similar circumstances and could open doors to alternatives to pipeline development in First Nations' territories. Gwaans Negotiator for Gitxsan Hereditary Cheifs, Beverly Clifton Percival, stated that the Tsilhqot'in ruling signifies that "For the Gitxsan it means the Crown Canada and B.C. must immediately withdraw the illegal offer of Gitxsan Lands in the neighbouring treaty offers." She also said that the ruling "has huge implications on resource development in the Province and Canada". (9)
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Though Gitxsan chiefs have issued strong and non-negotiable statements regarding their territory, time will tell if the Canadian government and corporations involved will illegally continue with the project or not.

Sources & Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Section 35 of the constitution act related to Aboriginal and

treaty rights

Delgamuukw Supreme Court decision mandating that Gitxsan hereditary house chiefs be consulted about impacts to their lands

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

(2) Article: Gitxsan discontinue discussions on all LNG pipelines

(5) Pacific NorthWest LNG website press release about Prince Rupert Gas Pipeline

(6) Progress Energy website description of fracking

(7) Government Report on Shale Gas activity, pg. 11 on Montney Play

(9) Press release from Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs regarding the Supreme Court ruling on Tsilhqot'in territory and its significance for the Gitxsan Nation

(10) Gitxsan website press release regarding discontinuation of LNG pipeline discussions

(8) Press release regarding the Supreme Court ruling on Tsilhqot'in territory

(4) Progress Energy site that explains ownership by PETRONAS

(11) Blog criticizing the Canadian government's use of money to gain support for pipeline

(12) Article describing controversy around faked Gitxsan chief signatures in support of LNG pipeline,1

(1) Article: 'Gitxsan Chiefs bar natural gas projects from territory near Hazelton, BC'

(3) Pacific NorthWest LNG site that explains ownership by PETRONAS

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Pacific NorthWest LNG site

Blog post on resistance to LNG pipeline development in B.C.

Gitxsan First Nation website

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Flashmob in TransCanada open house (video)

Camp Madii Lii, Gitxsan Nation - LNG PROHIBITED (video)

Other documents

Resistance to pipeline in Madii Lii Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs block LNG personnel from territory (

LNG Pipeline blockade in Luutkudziiwus territory House of Luutkudziiwus blocks road to LNG pipeline development (

Direct action against LNG Prince Rupert pipeline in Hazelton, B.C. Residents of Hazelton, B.C. stage a direct action protest against pipeline development in their area (

Meta information

Contributor:Lena Weber, Lund University Department of Human Geography, Human Ecology Division
Last update01/10/2014



Resistance to pipeline in Madii Lii

Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs block LNG personnel from territory (

LNG Pipeline blockade in Luutkudziiwus territory

House of Luutkudziiwus blocks road to LNG pipeline development (

Direct action against LNG Prince Rupert pipeline in Hazelton, B.C.

Residents of Hazelton, B.C. stage a direct action protest against pipeline development in their area (