KITIMAT, British Columbia, July 24 (UPI) -- Aboriginal communities living along the western Canadian coast can reap the benefits of responsible resource development, the Canadian energy minister said.
Canadian Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver met with representatives from the Haisla First Nation during a west coast tour this week. His tour complements a visit to arctic Canadian regions by National Energy Board Chairman Gaetan Caron.
Aboriginal communities and provincial leaders from British Columbia have expressed reservations about plans for more oil and natural gas development in the area. They said they're worried about the potential damage to the west coast's pristine environment.
Oliver said in the port city of Kitimat aboriginal communities stand to benefit from energy development. He said the Canadian government is committed to ensuring no development would take place without environmental assurances.
"The government will make every effort to ensure that aboriginal peoples in Canada have the opportunity to share the benefits of energy resource development in the years ahead, while ensuring that projects are developed in a manner that has the highest regard for safety and the environment," he said in a statement Wednesday.
Western developments could help the Canadian government tap into energy-hungry Asian economies. The Canadian energy sector depends in large part on U.S. markets.