Declaration ‘a plus for everybody’

Karen Ogen-Toews, CEO of the First Nations LNG Alliance, sees the Jan. 14 Declaration event in Vancouver as helping people learn and understand that UNDRIP is “a plus” across the board.

“UNDRIP isn’t a negative thing for us. It’s a plus, a plus for everybody and we need to communicate that, to make sure that everybody is on the same page.

“UNDRIP is about basic human rights. Indigenous people have the right to clean drinking water, education, health, you name it. We have the right to have a better quality of life.

“And I think UNDRIP opens the door, wide open, for certainty, not only for us, but for government, industry and businesses.”

Thus the Alliance became a partner in the Vancouver event.

“I see UNDRIP creating more certainty. I’m hoping that investors hear this message. There are mixed messages being told out there. We want them to hear from the Indigenous people that want a better life — and are open for business.”

Ogen-Toews, a councillor of the Wet’suwet’en Nation (and a former chief councillor), counters fears that a few Indigenous objectors could derail a multi-billion-dollar project.

“One thing is for certain: None of these resource projects can move forward without the consent of the Indigenous people across the land. But that doesn’t give us the authority to veto any projects.

“As far as I’m concerned, the 20 First Nations that have signed agreements along the line (the Coastal GasLink pipeline that will feed natural gas to LNG Canada in Kitimat) want to work with both government and industry, to improve the livelihood of our people and to ensure that the highest environmental standards are being met.”

Those, she says, are “critical pieces” for the First Nations LNG Alliance.

“The Alliance was born so that we could educate and make people aware of what LNG is, in relation to Indigenous people; so we could engage these communities and others that don’t know much about LNG, and give them all the information that they need to make informed opinions and informed decisions, on their own, without any other influences.

“We also relate to government and industry, and a lot of our presentations and messaging has been about what these LNG projects mean in relation to Indigenous people, how they must be based on a solid foundation of trust, and how government and industry must do their part in terms of consultation and procurement and how these projects are going to move our people to have a better quality of life. And at the same time we must all make sure that we have the highest environmental standards.”

As for the Jan. 14 event: “I think that people who don’t know much about UNDRIP will come away from it knowing more about what UNDRIP means in relation to government and First Nations people and communities.

“I’m seeing a lot of Indigenous people in favour of these resource projects, and it is about our people and their land, and their quality of life. With that that come responsibilities, and those responsibilities are to make sure that all of these things are happening.”

Tickets for the Jan. 14 event are available online here.

This blog was first published on 02 January 2020 in Rights & Respect Magazine, Page 23 at https://adobe.ly/39uLt8F)

Posted here 10 January 2020