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Help from eco-activists? Be wary

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The fact that we exist as an Alliance hangs on this: There are many First Nations who support responsible LNG development, and the benefits to our nations and communities that flow from it.

We’d been wondering when national media would catch on to the tactics of some anti-development and eco-activist groups who have recruited First Nations people as supporters.

Columnist Claudia Cattaneo of Financial Post certainly did this in a story headlined ‘Eco-colonialism’: Rift grows between Indigenous leaders and green activists.

A brief extract:

“The campaigns consistently portray a united Indigenous anti-development front and allies of the green movement, but some Indigenous leaders are becoming alarmed that they could be permanently frozen out of the mainstream economy if resource projects don’t go ahead.

“They said in interviews they’ve had enough of activists invading their lands, misleading them about their agendas, recruiting token members to front their causes, sowing mistrust and conflict, and using hard-line tactics against those who don’t agree.

“‘The best way to describe it is eco-colonialism,’ said Ken Brown, a former chief of the Klahoose First Nation in southwestern B.C. ‘You are seeing a very pervasive awakening among these First Nations leaders about what is going on in the environmental community.’”

We’ll leave it to you to read it all, but as supporters of responsible LNG development we were also struck by this paragraph:

‘There was also the demise of Pacific NorthWest LNG and Aurora LNG, as well as the continuing challenges faced by the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and other proposed LNG projects. These cancellations and obstacles are celebrated by activists, but also wiped out jobs and revenue for First Nations.”

There’s a lesson in all this for First Nations people.

Of course, not all First Nations leaders, peoples, or communities support resource development, and they absolutely have every right to oppose it.

But if you’re approached by an outside eco-group offering “support”, what’s their real agenda?

It’s almost certainly not to get your Nation a better deal and more benefits from the developer. Be aware, and wary. Know what you’re getting into.

We posted Cattaneo’s story on our Facebook page, where it drew a pertinent comment from BC consultant Dave Kennedy. He said that publicly opposing a development in hopes of getting more benefits from a developer is an unfortunate strategic error.

“I have seen this tack taken more than a few times and it is rarely successful. There are a couple of reasons for this: Once a party is publicly opposed to a project it is unlikely that the proponent will want to advance negotiations as it signals to others that a real or virtual blockade is a productive tactic causing the proponent to face more public opposition. This makes investors and regulators more than a little uncomfortable and defeating the ‘blockade’ becomes the focus of the leaders around the boardroom table, rather than a focus on a better project or improved benefits. Secondly, the First Nation does not now have a way to move forward without publicly abandoning its opposition to the project. Having said that the project is no good how can the Nation’s leadership change its public position when it will soon become clear that the major thing that changed was the size of the benefit package?”

More on all this on our Facebook page, and in this article from Dave Kennedy.

Karen Ogen-Toews, CEO, First Nations LNG Alliance

Our blog is . . . a First Nations lens

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Love that we don’t have to start our new blogspace with a dictionary definition, especially one such as this:

“A blog is a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style.”

Well, OK, our blog may turn out to be all of the above, but let’s keep it simple: It’s a webpage where we can discuss LNG and related resource issues of the day—through a First Nations lens.

That helps to ensure that First Nations views, needs and priorities are out there. And every time we write a blog, we’ll use social media to invite the public to read and absorb it. Most importantly, we want First Nations people exposed to a variety of views about the LNG industry.

There have been some recent messages that they need to hear. For example:

  • Ellis Ross, former chief councillor of the Haisla Nation (and now BC Liberal MLA for Skeena): “If the government really wants reconciliation for First Nations . . . you have to get behind economic development and actually support industries that help First Nations get out of poverty. They don’t want your handouts. They don’t want handouts. They want to support themselves. And, yes, this means supporting fish farms, forest and range agreements, LNG.”
  • Calvin Helin of the Lax Kw’alaams Band, on eco-activists who claim to support First Nations objections to resource developments: “These environmentalists are happy to make a park in somebody else’s backyard. Well, screw that. You are talking about people where there is 90 per cent unemployment.”
  • Joe Bevan, chief councillor of the Kitselas Nation: “A resource-based economy is a big reality of living and working in the north. Resource economies bring well-paying jobs, stability for many families and prosperity to our communities. But, ensuring that the right voices are heard is crucial when trying to engage with industry or government to get resource projects underway.”
  • And such headlines as “B.C. is now the worst destination in Canada for oil and gas investors — and among the worst in the world: survey.”

That last was a column in Financial Post. Among the things it listed as deterrents to natural-gas development in BC were ‘disputed land claims and protected areas.’

If that’s some kind of short-hand for “First Nations objections”, let’s be clear: First Nations, like any other society or community, encompass different views about economic development. Some welcome responsible resource development; some want the resources left in the ground.

We feel our First Nations LNG Alliance is in the common-sensible middle of the road:

  • We believe in responsible LNG development that can offer Indigenous people and communities jobs, incomes, training, education, security, and (as Ellis Ross and others put it) a pathway out of poverty, alcohol, and worse.
  • But First Nations communities in BC and Canada were stewards of the environment long before there was a Canada or a BC, and we continue to have that responsibility. So LNG and natural-gas development must respect the environment and First Nations rights.

Please join and support our cause for engagement and dialogue. And keep your eyes on our social media channels (Facebook and Twitter) for notice of our next blog.

Karen Ogen-Toews, CEO, First Nations LNG Alliance