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PRINCE RUPERT, B.C. — A hereditary chief of the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation near Prince Rupertis launching a Federal Court case against the federal government’s decision to approve the proposed Pacific NorthWest LNG project.

According to an article in The Globe and Mail, Donnie Wesley is arguing that he has the rightful claim to be recognized as hereditary head chief of the Gitwilgyoots tribe, one of nine that comprise the Lax Kw’alaams band.

Wesley, who has been a vocal critic of Pacific NorthWest LNG, is asking Federal Court to clear the way for a judicial review into whether Ottawa acted properly in approving the proposed $11-billion LNG export terminal on Lelu Island last September. Wesley is battling elected Lax Kw’alaams officials who support the project, uncovering an internal rift among members of the First Nation.

If Federal Court Justice Robert Barnes rules in Wesley’s favour, the next step could be judicial reviews that would take place this fall into applications by Wesley and other parties that are seeking a court order to quash the federal government’s approval of Pacific NorthWest LNG.

In Wesley’s Federal Court application, a number of respondents are named, including the cabinet of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Environment Minister, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, Pacific NorthWest LNG, Lax Kw’alaams band mayor John Helin, the Lax Kw’alaams Band, the Metlakatla Band, and Carl Sampson Sr. Meanwhile, Sampson has filed his own documents asserting that he is the head chief of the Gitwilgyoots tribe, not Wesley.

During a two-day hearing in Vancouver last week, the judge listened to arguments about the authority of hereditary leaders versus that of elected band councillors. Lax Kw’alaams has an elected mayor, but not a hereditary grand chief overseeing the First Nation.

Lax Kw’alaams band Mayor John Helin and Metlakatla chief councillor Harold Leighton were both in the audience in the courtroom last week in Vancouver. The two men both support the project.

Story courtesy The Globe and Mail:

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