Help from eco-activists? Be wary

The fact that we exist as an Alliance hangs on this: There are many First Nations who support responsible LNG development, and the benefits to our nations and communities that flow from it.

We’d been wondering when national media would catch on to the tactics of some anti-development and eco-activist groups who have recruited First Nations people as supporters.

Columnist Claudia Cattaneo of Financial Post certainly did this in a story headlined ‘Eco-colonialism’: Rift grows between Indigenous leaders and green activists.

A brief extract:

“The campaigns consistently portray a united Indigenous anti-development front and allies of the green movement, but some Indigenous leaders are becoming alarmed that they could be permanently frozen out of the mainstream economy if resource projects don’t go ahead.

“They said in interviews they’ve had enough of activists invading their lands, misleading them about their agendas, recruiting token members to front their causes, sowing mistrust and conflict, and using hard-line tactics against those who don’t agree.

“‘The best way to describe it is eco-colonialism,’ said Ken Brown, a former chief of the Klahoose First Nation in southwestern B.C. ‘You are seeing a very pervasive awakening among these First Nations leaders about what is going on in the environmental community.’”

We’ll leave it to you to read it all, but as supporters of responsible LNG development we were also struck by this paragraph:

‘There was also the demise of Pacific NorthWest LNG and Aurora LNG, as well as the continuing challenges faced by the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and other proposed LNG projects. These cancellations and obstacles are celebrated by activists, but also wiped out jobs and revenue for First Nations.”

There’s a lesson in all this for First Nations people.

Of course, not all First Nations leaders, peoples, or communities support resource development, and they absolutely have every right to oppose it.

But if you’re approached by an outside eco-group offering “support”, what’s their real agenda?

It’s almost certainly not to get your Nation a better deal and more benefits from the developer. Be aware, and wary. Know what you’re getting into.

We posted Cattaneo’s story on our Facebook page, where it drew a pertinent comment from BC consultant Dave Kennedy. He said that publicly opposing a development in hopes of getting more benefits from a developer is an unfortunate strategic error.

“I have seen this tack taken more than a few times and it is rarely successful. There are a couple of reasons for this: Once a party is publicly opposed to a project it is unlikely that the proponent will want to advance negotiations as it signals to others that a real or virtual blockade is a productive tactic causing the proponent to face more public opposition. This makes investors and regulators more than a little uncomfortable and defeating the ‘blockade’ becomes the focus of the leaders around the boardroom table, rather than a focus on a better project or improved benefits. Secondly, the First Nation does not now have a way to move forward without publicly abandoning its opposition to the project. Having said that the project is no good how can the Nation’s leadership change its public position when it will soon become clear that the major thing that changed was the size of the benefit package?”

More on all this on our Facebook page, and in this article from Dave Kennedy.

Karen Ogen-Toews, CEO, First Nations LNG Alliance