Our Karen Ogen-Toews in The Vancouver Sun:
It’s time for activists, who paint First Nations as overwhelmingly opposed to LNG and natural-resource development, to allow First Nations to speak for ourselves.
Indeed, it’s dismaying to find that some environmental activists are trying to control First Nations territories, just as governments and corporations have done in the past, and by using the same old divide-and-conquer tactics.
We at the First Nations LNG Alliance recognize that not all First Nations leaders, peoples or communities support resource development, and they have every right to oppose it. They are, after all, the holders of rights and title over their territories, and have been stewards of the environment for thousands of years.
And it’s important that First Nations people engage on these topics no matter what our position is, and not to have other people speak on our behalf.
The members of our alliance support responsible LNG development that achieves an acceptable balance between the economy and the environment.
Hear two First Nations leaders in B.C. on what such LNG development means to their people:
First, Chief Coun. Crystal Smith of the Haisla, whose First Nations home is near Kitimat, where both LNG Canada and Kitimat LNG are working toward final-investment decisions (FID).
“It’s hope,” says Smith. “It holds so much hope for our members in terms of employment and capacity-building for future generations that come. We see significant employment for our members, access to educational opportunities and a way forward for a truly independent nation.
“We know exactly what we need — the ability to govern ourselves, take care of our families and ensure our young people have opportunities that allow them to remain in our community and become self-supporting. What we need are well-paying jobs and economic-development opportunities.”
And hear Chief Coun. Robert Dennis Sr. of the Huu-ay-aht First Nations on Vancouver Island. The Huu-ay-aht have a co-management deal for the proposed Steelhead LNG project on their territory, near Port Alberni.
Dennis: “The economic picture goes like this: In order for Huu-ay-aht First Nations to close the existing economic and social gap, we estimate that we would need — at the very least — $250 million over the next 10 years.
“And I say to myself, ‘Where am I going to get $250 million?’ I know the feds aren’t going to say, ‘Well, Huu-ay-aht, here’s $250 million; go do what you want.’ And also I know the province isn’t going to come to the nation and say, ‘Here. Huu-ay-aht, here’s the money you need.’ I’m sure as I’m sitting here that’s not going to happen.
“We have to find some way to do this. And this (LNG) is one of the ways that provides economic opportunity and will help us close that economic and social gap.”
They’re not alone. Thirty-two First Nations in B.C. have reached natural-gas pipeline agreements. Sixteen are members of the First Nations Pacific Trail Pipelines Group Limited Partnership. And another dozen signed natural-gas and/or LNG deals.
It was good to hear Haisla Nation Coun. Kevin Stewart and Haisla Ellis Ross (now Liberal MLA for Skeena) supporting LNG development when they spoke at the big B.C. Natural Resources Forum in Prince George:
• Stewart: “We very much want to see the projects make an FID, because it brings hope to our people, which we really need. We need the jobs, we need the revenue and we need the hope.”
• Ross: “When you look at the evidence of First Nations who embraced economic development for the jobs, the training — their social issues go away. And those First Nations have the ability to address their own issues on their own terms.”
Note those words “on their own terms.” On First Nations’ terms, that is, not on terms dictated by industry or environmentalists who claim to speak for First Nations.
As Smith says: “We have spent a significant amount of time participating in an environmental-assessment review process to ensure our concerns about the land we live on and the waters that surround our village would be protected.”
And there’s no one better qualified than First Nations to know how to protect their environment.
(Posted 23 February 2018)