For the record, there are 634 First Nations in Canada, 198 of them in British Columbia. There are 1.3 million First Nations people in Canada, 5.6% of the population. More than 275,000 of them are in British Columbia, 6% of the provincial population.
Also for the record, their past is one of colonization and repression, and of some 70 treaties with First Nations — many of those treaties thereafter broken by “the settlers.”
Thus Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission declared in 2015:
- “For over a century, the central goals of Canada’s Aboriginal policy were to eliminate Aboriginal governments; ignore Aboriginal rights; terminate the Treaties; and, through a process of assimilation, cause Aboriginal peoples to cease to exist as distinct legal, social, cultural, religious, and racial entities in Canada.”
In more than 200 court cases won by Indigenous people, Aboriginal rights and title have been steadily recognized and established. And the higher courts in some recent cases have held that the federal government failed in its “duty to consult and accommodate” when supporting proposals for major resource developments on Indigenous territory.
The future, I hope, is in one word, Reconciliation.
The federal government is moving toward what it calls a “Recognition and Implementation of Rights Framework.” It promises to, somehow, build principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) into Canadian law. And the BC government promises to work in partnership with Indigenous peoples “to embrace and implement UNDRIP.”
If those are steps toward Reconciliation, they will be welcome.
The First Nations LNG Alliance of BC wholeheartedly supports Reconciliation, although we recognize that it is a process that will take decades to become a given.
Our Alliance’s mission is to help to bring about what Grand Chief Abel Bosum of the Cree Nation called “the economic development partnership” and we at the Alliance call “Economic Reconciliation.”
The goal is to “close the gap” between the low standard of living of Indigenous people, and that of non-Indigenous Canadians in general.
National Chief Perry Bellegarde notes that Canada and its standard of living ranks sixth in the world according to the UN Human Development Index. Apply that index to Canada’s Indigenous people, and they rank 63rd.
We support responsible development of LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas), and its export, as a way for First Nations people in BC to begin to close that gap.
BC has vast areas of resource-rich territory that was never ceded by its Indigenous owners. It has enough natural gas to supply domestic and export demand for well over 150 years.
LNG is often called a “transition fuel”, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by displacing coal and diesel for generating power, during a global transition to renewable energies. So be it. But that transition may well take decades; 30, 40 or 50 years.
During that transition, natural-gas and LNG production and associated pipelines promise huge benefits for our First Nations communities and peoples. And thus an important tool to help close that gap.
That would be a vital contribution to “Economic Reconciliation.”
CEO, First Nations LNG Alliance
(Posted here 03 December 2018)