The Nadleh Whut’en First Nation in northern B.C. celebrated a new partnership for construction on a section of the Coastal GasLink pipeline with a groundbreaking ceremony at Lejac on March 17.
Fort St. John-based contractor Macro Pipelines established a partnership with Nadleh Whut’en and forestry contractor Frost Group, called Nadleh-Macro, to build section 5 of the pipeline from north of Vanderhoof to south of Burns Lake.
Nadleh Whut’en Chief Larry Nooski said the joint venture represents “important changes” in the way industry and government engage with the First Nation on its territory — having moved from a lack of communication to being partners.
“This is a truly historic moment. This is our land and we need to act in such a way that reflects that.”
Coastal GasLink (CGL) contracts out to prime contractors who build the pipeline on the ground.
Nadleh-Macro is the newest prime contractor for the pipeline and represents the second major Indigenous joint venture on its construction since the Ledcor-Haisla Limited Partnership in 2021, according to CGL.
Coastal GasLink director of Indigenous relations Tiffany Murray told Black Press Media the partnership represents “another step forward in reconciliation.”
Previous Nadleh Whut’en leadership had initially opposed the pipeline. Murray said that shows what partnerships can be when industry and Indigenous communities put in the work to find common ground.
She said Nadleh Whut’en assessed the project and decided if it was something the First Nation wanted to be involved in — and adjustments were made to fit the community’s priorities.
“This is a great example of how through building relationships, through building trust, taking feedback from the communities and changing the project, you can build a better project together,” Murray said.
“We will continue to build those relationships and make sure that we’re fulfilling the commitments that we’ve made to them.”
She said CGL’s working relationship with Nadleh Whut’en will last “through the whole life of the project.”
Village of Fraser Lake Mayor Sarrah Storey thanked the First Nation saying what happens in one community impacts its neighbours in terms of job creation and economic development.
Construction manager JJ. DeCorby said Nadleh-Macro also stands out as a “made in B.C. solution” and exclusively Canadian contractor.
Nadleh Whut’en entrepreneur and producer Damien Ketlo said the partnership is to build prosperity both for future generations and “the people here, now and today.”
“Will it be the most perfect relationship? Probably not — but what relationship is?
“Let us continue to take advantage of the most opportunities we can for our people.”
Nooski said there is still “much to learn” and industry partners will be held to their commitments along the way.
“Our friends at CGL have demonstrated a better way for industry to work in our territory.”
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