Canadian LNG is Indigenous LNG, a speech by Alliance CEO Karen Ogen

Photo: Karen Ogen

The following is from a speech by Alliance CEO Karen Ogen to the 2024 Creating Energy – Northern Resource Conference at Fort St John BC, on 21 May 2024.

Canadian LNG is Indigenous LNG

“Creating Energy” is exactly what the First Nations LNG Alliance is trying to do – creating energy for our people, our communities, and for all British Columbians.  When we take B.C.’s energy, and add the energy of Indigenous peoples, new vistas of opportunity and progress unfold before us.

Since 2015, the Alliance has been striving to represent the perspective of our First Nations members in B.C. and across Canada, and advocating for a strong First Nations role in the development of the fledgling LNG industry.

In 2023, we inherited the resources of the former Canadian LNG Alliance and have taken on the mantle of broader industry advocacy, and have on-boarded affiliate corporate members, strengthening the communication between First Nations and industry.

As the LNG opportunity enters a new phase, it is critically important to build a stronger connection between the upstream resource in Treaty 8 territory, the midstream communities along the pipeline routes, and the downstream communities hosting facilities and along the shipping routes.

A stronger future is in sight, but we must advocate strongly to push away the obstacles put before us by industry opponents.

Instead, we must continue to advocate that Canadian LNG has high standards, reduces global greenhouse gas emissions, and is inclusive of Indigenous values.  Canadian LNG is Indigenous LNG.

To know where we are going today, I want to briefly step back to remember where we came from. . . .

The Indigenous Energy Gap

From the time our lands became industrialized in the 1800s, First Nations experienced a growing energy gap.

We did not have the capital, land base, infrastructure, technical capacity or jurisdiction to access the energy to build our economies and grow our communities. In fact, there was a wall of racist policy. Energy built an industrial economy that left Indigenous people behind.

Whether it was coal in the 1800s, oil in the 1940s, or hydroelectric dams and natural gas in the decades that followed, all of that energy produced wealth while First Nations were left with a diminished land base and little or no benefit.  We had little or no say.

This reality unites First Nations from Treaty 8, throughout the Interior of B.C., to the coast.  We were all left out and left in poverty. Not just denied the benefits of BC’s energy development, but denied the energy of participating in the opportunity, and denied consultation as our communities were deeply impacted.

Our leaders did not accept this and fought hard to have Rights and Title recognized.  These rights were won in court  – in cases brought forward First Nations in all corners of the province.

These rights were won through persistence and determination.

Today’s leaders advocate from the shoulders of previous generations that had the foresight to fight for our legal rights, against the wind, when the outcome of that struggle was very uncertain.

It’s been a long journey, but we are finally at the table with more control over our destiny.  And I believe our progress is manifesting itself in economic independence that will benefit all British Columbians.

First Nations Participation

LNG has been a unique opportunity for First Nations.

It is essentially a brand-new industry for our province and country, allowing us all to start from scratch.

As the LNG opportunity was explored, First Nations acquired the resources to negotiate, advocate, and write ourselves into the story on the largest industrial projects in Canadian history.

The B.C. government took an open approach to invite First Nations participation – and it’s been pushed to go further over the past decade.

Industry recognized that there was no pathway to LNG without meaningful First Nations participation – a lot more meaningful.

First Nations considered the opportunity and weighed the trade-offs.

We could see the benefit for growing and emerging countries that needed cleaner energy than coal, and we could see the benefits for First Nations and other communities here in Canada, and the importance to do it right – economically, environmentally, and socially.

We travelled to Asia to learn about global energy demand, we visited LNG facilities, and we consulted our community members.  We took a step forward together into this opportunity.

Now, First Nations are realizing economic and training opportunities for the benefit of our people and all communities

Now, we are in a stronger position to protect our land and our environment

And we are bringing a long-term, global perspective – there’s only one world and we need to consider future generations

We are finally becoming decision-makers on our own lands and realizing the promise of our pre-existing legal rights.

Putting First Nations participation into practice

What does increased First Nations participation really mean?

Over the past decade, new avenues for First Nations participation have emerged:

  • Sharing revenue
  • Significant procurement opportunities
  • Jobs and training opportunities
  • Meaningful consultation
  • Research
  • Indigenous-led, consent-based environmental assessment processes

And ownership – as equity partners in pipelines, and majority owners in projects

More recently, governments are now stepping up – finally – to help First Nations finance our ambitions to own our own future.

For decades, governments have had no issue with spending billions of dollars to fund auto plants, prop up aging pulp mills, or other schemes that they justified for the greater good.

Now, governments are finally recognizing that First Nations, who want to invest in their own opportunities, should be supported with financing tools.

B.C.’s $1-billion First Nations Equity Financing Framework, announced in the February budget is a welcome step. I call it a step because I believe the appetite for First Nations equity financing will ultimately outstrip that initial commitment.

The federal government brought forward a $5-billion national equity financing framework this spring as well.

I acknowledge and thank each of those government for taking those initial steps.  And I appreciate that these financing tools are available to the energy sector, despite some that may wish to block First Nations from natural-gas development.

I also acknowledge and thank those First Nations leaders that have fought tenaciously for these financing tools.  It has been a collective effort.

Think about it – we are looking to borrow money to build our opportunities in the resource sector.  We want to be owners.  That is something we should all support.

We have come a long way but we have further to go yet.

A pan-Indigenous approach

The LNG industry has made a lot of progress in the past 10 to 15 years.  We should all be proud that the largest private sector investment in Canadian history – the combined LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink projects – is almost complete.  A first cargo is expected to be shipped in the next year.

Every cargo shipped represents revenue and opportunity for participating First Nations, communities, and all B.C. residents.  It will pay for nurses and doctors and teachers, and will help strengthen First Nations communities and help us on our journey to eradicate poverty.

But we also know that our LNG opportunity was not what it could have been.  And that we in Canada had a lot more to learn about being competitive.

For First Nations, the development of the industry so far has been in silos – with a different conversation happening in the upstream, the midstream, and the downstream.

We need to bring those conversations together.

The gas is coming from up here, in Treaty 8 territory  There is no LNG opportunity without Treaty 8 gas.

The gas for LNG Canada in Kitimat, for example, is being shipped through 20 First Nations’ territories – there is no LNG without the participation of midstream communities.

LNG facilities would not be possible without the participation of host First Nations such as the Haisla, the Squamish, or, in the future, the Nisga’a and others.  There’s no LNG without the support of First Nations at tidewater.

First Nations have a lot to learn from each other. Which is why I was honoured to meet with Treaty 8 leaders in March here in Fort St. John, to hear from them and discuss ways we can connect Treaty 8 to the midstream and downstream First Nations.

The Indigenous story on LNG is strong, and by working more closely together, we can show an even more compelling story to British Columbians about the benefits of Indigenous participation.  More importantly, First Nations can learn from each other as to how we can strengthen our communities.

The re-colonization of energy by activists

First Nations have made their choice about the LNG opportunity, informed by research and consultation.

However, First Nations that choose the path of progress are summarily ignored by other interests who demand that LNG be scrapped.

We recognize there are differences in opinion, both in the public at large, and in our own communities.  That’s democracy.

However, when 88 environmental groups and other organizations recently demanded an end to LNG, no one bothered to talk to us.

I view that as a “re-colonization” of energy by environmentalists.

It’s a type of eco-colonialism that First Nations people like me are all-too familiar with, particularly as we seek to diversify our economies and provide opportunities for young people and future generations. To be told, “No, you can’t do it that way” is a slap in the face by those activists, many of whom claim to be First Nations’ allies.

We can’t afford to virtue-signal to warm our consciences, when we can and should do more to move Asia off of coal.

In Canada, we do it better than anywhere else.  We have high environmental standards, driven in no small part by Indigenous involvement.  Canada opting out of energy is just letting Russia, Qatar, the U.S. and other producers take up our role, and do it dirtier.

When we responsibly develop our energy resources, we are helping First Nations get to First World standards in terms of prosperity, education, and life expectancy. This is the promise of economic reconciliation.

As a First Nations woman, who has been chief of my First Nation, I know paternalism when I see it.  We won’t accept a pat on the head and hopes that something else will come along to lift our communities from poverty.  We have done our homework, rooted in our understanding of the land, and a generational view of the environment.

Owning our Future

LNG provides us with an opportunity where we can own our future:

There is a global need for Canadian LNG.

And there is no Canadian LNG unless it’s Indigenous LNG.   Indigenous people will be at the heart of it.

What does Indigenous LNG look like?

  • Indigenous-led, owned, and/or partnered
  • Global-leading environmental standards
  • Sharing the benefits fairly
  • Respecting UNDRIP principles

And we need access to capital, through loan guarantees and other measures that allow us to own our own future

Canadian LNG is Indigenous LNG

We have more work to do:

  • To bring our communities and people to a level of prosperity that all Canadians enjoy
  • To ensure our lands, waters, and air are protected for the long-term
  • To make a positive contribution to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions
  • To ensure Indigenous views are taken into account when government is making decisions

First Nations are writing the roadmap to clean energy prosperity, a roadmap to owning our future.

Fundamentally, reconciliation is impossible without a strong economic foundation to advance change. For Indigenous communities, the outcomes of building Canadian LNG are tangible and essential: jobs and Indigenous-owned businesses, own-source revenues to fund clean drinking water, housing and economic opportunities, and more.

We will continue to inform Canadians that Canadian LNG is a direct route to jobs and benefits for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike.

And the direct route for low-carbon Canadian LNG to Asia is through Canada, not through the US to the Gulf Coast – but from Treaty 8 to the Coast.

We will play our part as an advocate for responsible energy development.

We are closing the Indigenous Energy Gap.

Canadian LNG is Indigenous LNG, and that is good for the world and good for all of us here.

Messi’h

(The event was hosted by the Fort St. John and District Chamber of Commerce, with support from the Dawson Creek and District Chamber of Commerce, the Chetwynd Chamber of Commerce, and Energy Safety Canada, the national safety association for Canada’s energy industry.)

 (Posted here 21 May 2024) 

 

 

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