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Lummi Nation says new Vancouver, B.C., port terminal violates agreement, would hurt fisheries

By Jack Belcher, The Bellingham Herald
Published: May 30, 2023, 7:28am

BELLINGHAM — The Lummi Nation says the recently approved expansion of the marine terminal at the Port of Vancouver violates a Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in 2021 and would have a devastating impact on fisheries restoration.

The Roberts Bank Terminal 2 was approved by the Canadian government after a decade long process.

“The expansion of the Port of Vancouver will have devastating impacts on our ability to revitalize our fisheries and exercise our rights,” said Tony Hillaire, chairman of the Lummi Nation in a news release. “One-hundred and seventy-seven years ago, Lummi’s access to the land and resources that we relied upon since time immemorial was severed.”

In R. v. Desautel, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that “non-citizens and non-residents can claim an Aboriginal right under the Constitution.” By claiming Aboriginal rights, the Lummi Nation is saying Canada and British Columbia need to consider how projects will impact Lummi treaty rights in the United States as well as the Aboriginal rights in Canada.

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority was required by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada to consult with 47 indigenous groups as part of the environmental assessment process. Of these groups, the port authority signed mutual benefit agreements with 26 of them.

However, the Lummi Nation was not one of the groups consulted.

“Desautel confirmed that our rights were not extinguished by the border,” said Hillaire. “Yet, Canada continues to ignore us. The decision to approve the project without engaging in deep consultation with Lummi not only ignores Desautel, but also overlooks the opportunity we have to work together to restore salmon runs on the Fraser River.”

Consultation with Indigenous groups began in 2011, Alex Munro, senior communications advisor the Port of Vancouver told The Bellingham Herald in an email.

“Roberts Bank Terminal 2 is essential for Canada — with container trade on a long-term growth trajectory and West Coast marine terminals almost at capacity. Our focus is on advancing the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project under our public-interest mandate in a way that protects and enhances the environment, is reflective of Indigenous priorities, and considers the needs of local communities,” Munro said.

This is not the first time the Lummi Nation has attempted to stop the construction of a port terminal. In 2015, the Lummi Nation sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers asking the agency to reject a permit application for a coal terminal at Cherry Point as it would interfere with fishing grounds for the tribe.

As a result of that letter, the corps rejected the permit in 2016.