Guest column: LNG, Reconciliation, invitation

Our guest column that ran in The Interior News, Smithers BC, on 09 October 2019: 

Did you know that, from 1927 to 1951, First Nations people in Canada were not allowed to hire lawyers? And that other people could actually be jailed for helping them raise legal funds?

We may think we have come some way since the creation of such offensive provisions in the federal Indian Act, but many remain unchanged. We have a way to go yet.

In BC, it used to be that companies could simply walk onto Indigenous territories. They drilled, they built pipelines and plants, and First Nations had no say.

Now First Nations across Canada have a ‘winning streak’ of 286 successful court cases on resources, land-title, and rights. We are moving to a place where you really can’t do business on Indigenous lands without consent.

Courts have held that “consultation and accommodation” are vital elements to be met before government will approve a resource project.

And protection of the environment is a vital “accommodation.” We First Nations people have been stewards of the environment for more than 10,000 years. It is part of our DNA.

First Nations now have begun to move beyond merely “having a say” and having simple Impact Benefit Agreements. We now are becoming regulators, investors and partners in natural-gas and LNG developments.

Take the Squamish Nation: It has a working partnership with Woodfibre LNG. The Squamish developed a unique environmental assessment agreement, and issued its own environmental certificate for the project.

Take the Haisla Nation: It has working partner shops with a long list of non-Indigenous companies. Those include big LNG developers: LNG Canada, Coastal GasLink, Kitimat LNG, and Pacific Trails Pipeline.

The Haisla also propose their own LNG project, Cedar LNG, which today is working through the government approval process.

One group of nations in BC is actively pursuing a share in the Coastal GasLink pipeline that will feed the LNG Canada plant at Kitimat. And three groups of First Nations are seeking to buy an interest of 51% (or more) in the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

All of these things contribute to “Economic Reconciliation” which, to me, goes and must go hand in hand with “Reconciliation” — moving Canada forward together in a mutually respectful relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

Many of these LNG-related processes are supported and assisted by the First Nations LNG Alliance. Our goal is to assist First Nations working with the LNG industry and to amplify their stories to others.

That’s one reason why we are hosting, with The North Matters organization, a pro-LNG rally in Smithers at noon on Saturday Oct. 12.

You’re invited. Please come and learn why LNG means opportunity, employment, and revenue for First Nations people — and economic benefit for all in BC. And learn why it all contributes to Economic Reconciliation.

See you there!

Karen Ogen-Toews is CEO of the First Nations LNG Alliance, a collective of First Nations participating in, and supportive of, responsible LNG development in BC. She is also an elected councillor (and former chief) of the Wet’suwet’en Nation.

NOTE: Sadly, the Oct. 12 event had to be cancelled. The other points in the column still stand, of course.

(This item posted here 09 October 2019)