Chief Councillor Crystal Smith of the Haisla Nation has become a huge hit in social media, and a go-to person for reporters seeking intelligent comment on LNG and resource news, and the involvement of First Nations.
She’s been a big draw, too, at LNG-related events, including the Haisla LNG Conference and Trade Show in Kitimat earlier this month. There, as you see below, she won a standing ovation after her keynote speech.
She spoke first of “a new era of responsible resource development, an era that finally includes true partnership, balanced participation and, most importantly, the inclusion of First Nations in responsible and sustainable resource development in BC and Canada.”
“Our ancestors have been here since time immemorial. And while industry built their projects in our back yard, we became spectators to the development of our unceded territories and our resources. All this development occurred without meaningful consultation, consent, nor accommodation of our unceded rights and title for our lands. For many decades we were on the outside, witnessing the success of many, and absolutely disregarded as inherent landlords of our own territories.
“The social impacts that result from managing poverty that has been delegated to our First Nations governments, not having a share nor a say in development of our own lands and resources, are well known in many First Nations communities. . . .
“Companies benefitted financially, communities benefitted from employment, municipalities gained tax revenue, and for 50-plus years we sat as spectators in our own unceded land and witnessed our resources deplete, our oolichan disappear from our rivers, our fish and other ocean wildlife contaminated to the point of not being able to harvest . . . for our families and our members. Our members had little to no employment or educational opportunities.”
“Today we can confidently say we have achieved a share, and a say; doing so with the approach of the LNG industry who have respected, and continue to respect, that we are not your regular stakeholders, and treat our roles within their development as the landlord of our unceded territory.”
There was a message to governments at all levels: “Reconciliation is much more than a buzzword. We are no longer deemed as spectators.”
And there was much more in her powerful and moving speech. Watch the video here.
She is not the only leader of the Alliance who has been making public appearances and supporting responsible LNG development. More on them in future blogs.
Chief Crystal also got national attention when she spoke at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s 2019 gala dinner in Ottawa, saying:
“There isn’t a process for instant success. There are, however two components that I can share with you tonight that are crucial in potentially acquiring and maintaining a successful relationship between First Nations and industry to which has allowed the success that our Nation has experienced thus far:
1. A project which meets environmental standards; and,
2. A project that meets the criteria to benefit our community today and for future generations.
“I thoroughly agree with Chief Councillor Clarence Louie that we are not to be considered your average stakeholder, we are rights holders, and therefore, we should be treated in a manner that allows full participation that respects our expertise and cultural relevance to our lands.
“As First Nations people we are physically and spiritually connected to our territories. Therefore we defend and protect our lands as you would your backyard. The environment within our territories is the most important matter when it comes to any development, as we have lived on our lands for thousands of years and will continue to reside in our territories for centuries after your project has come and gone
“What does this mean for a proponent for a major project? It means that you need to demonstrate how your project addresses the environmental concerns of the First Nation, and how you will accommodate any impacts and where possible, enhance the environment within the territory.”
And here’s a full video of that speech
- Chief Crystal also led off a special report on the LNG Canada project from Natural Gas World magazine.
- Earlier, she wrote a guest column in The Vancouver Sun: Haisla supports gas pipeline because it means opportunities for First Nations
- And she was a part of this story (with video) from CKPG News in Prince George: LNG Canada updates Kitimat residents
To add to all that: She is also an active member of the board of directors of our First Nations LNG Alliance. She has spoken at many of our public events.
(And she didn’t know about or see this blog before it went online today.)
(Posted here 17 April 2019)