‘Build the plan’ WITH First Nations


The following is derived from a lecture that our CEO, Karen Ogen-Toews, delivered to University of Calgary students on 14 May 2020:

Here we are in 2020, a far cry from 1876 — but in some ways not too far a cry. The year 1876 was when the Indian Act came into being in Canada, a law that — although somewhat changed since 1876 — still rules many aspects of our Indigenous lives.

Two quick facts about the Indian Act:

  • Until 1985, a First Nations woman marrying a non-Indigenous man lost her status as an “Indian.” This law did not apply to First Nations men who married non-Indian women.
  • 1985 was almost 20 years after the University of Calgary was founded. Yet until 1985 a First Nations member who earned a university degree lost their “Indian status” rights.

And remember that the last Residential School in Canada remained open until 1996 — only 24 years ago.

It’s 2020. We have come some way, but we have not come far enough.  Hopefully, though, we have embarked on a new era of reconciliation.

As CEO of the First Nations LNG Alliance, I look on reconciliation as a process that can start with economic reconciliation.

And the development and export of LNG — liquefied natural gas — offers an economic contribution that is welcomed by many First Nations people.

You have no doubt heard that my own Nation, the Wet’suwet’en, is divided on the issue of the Coastal GasLink pipeline. It will run underground through our unceded territory, and it will feed natural gas to the processing and export plant of LNG Canada at Kitimat.

To cut a long story short:

  • The elected council of the Wet’suwet’en, on which I sit as a councillor, supports the development. We see it as in the interest of our people, and so do a large majority of our people. It will offer training, careers, and revenue.
  • But a small group of hereditary chiefs argues that they, and only they, have the right and mandate to decide on the pipeline; and they oppose it.
  • The picture has become even more complicated because the federal and BC governments have signed a memorandum, with those hereditary chiefs, on a pathway to resolve Wet’suwet’en rights and title.
  • The last paragraph of the memorandum reads: “This agreement is to be ratified by Canada, BC and the Wet’suwet’en under their respective systems of governance.”

But what do Ottawa and BC see as the governance system of the Wetsuwet’en? The group of hereditary chiefs? A combination of hereditary chiefs and the elected chiefs and elected councillors? This is not yet clear.

I hope that we will soon be able to resolve this issue. And it is an issue for us Wet’suwet’en people to resolve, not for outsiders and protesters, or for people who block railway lines in BC, bridges in Vancouver, and streets in Ontario and Quebec.

Our Wet’suwet’en Nation council is far from alone in welcoming the new pipeline. So do 19 other Nations whose land will be crossed by the line. And it is especially welcomed, for example, by the Haisla Nation on the BC coast at Kitimat.

The Haisla have developed partnerships with a whole raft of companies involved in building the pipeline, the processing plant on Haisla territory, and the export shipping terminal, shipping services, and allied initiatives. And now the Haisla are even proposing to build their own LNG processing and export plant.

The Haisla got to this point by developing true partnerships. Those partnerships started with a process of consultation — company and First Nation. And consultation has been an essential process for all the other First Nations, like mine, that approve of the LNG Canada and Kitimat LNG projects.

And, more and more, First Nations are becoming interested in equity partnerships in projects, actually owning a piece of the pie, earning a share of profits, and increasing their ability to call the shots.

TC Energy plans to sell a stake of as much as 75 per cent in the Coastal GasLink pipeline; and a group of First Nations is looking into how they might buy into the project. And there are three First Nations groups who are exploring buying at least 51 per cent of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline project.

So how does the process of consultation work? It begins with building relationships. It begins with building trust, two-way trust.

It begins with the company listening and learning, not barging in with a PowerPoint show and announcing that “Here is our plan.”

Here’s a good, and true, example of how not to do it: An oil pipeline company set up a first visit to an affected First Nation. The CEO brought PowerPoint slides, boxes of documents and copies of engineering studies, and announced: “I’d like to show you our plan.”

The First Nations councillors in the room remained dead silent. After what seemed like an endless pause, the elected chief of the Nation said simply: “You have no plan.”

“Oh, yes,” the CEO replied. “We have had the best engineers working on the plan for almost two years. I have brought copies of it for you.”

Another silence. And eventually the chief said: “You don’t understand. You have no plan until we have a plan.”

It used to be that a company . . . oil, gas, pipeline, mining, forestry . . . could walk onto unceded Indigenous territory and build what they wanted, how they wanted, and then make changes in it, all with no involvement of the affected Nation or Nations.

No longer. . . .

Now you consult. You listen. You learn. You build trust. You respect the environment. This last point is essential. We First Nations people have been stewards of the environment for ten thousand years and more. It is part of our DNA.

Consent from the Squamish Nation in BC for the Woodfibre LNG project means that the Squamish became an environmental regulator of the project. There have been changes in the project because of their Indigenous environmental priorities.

So, if you’re a developer, you “build the plan” together with the First Nation. And, in the end, you need consent from the Nation.

Indeed, these days, there is no way you are going to build a big resource project without Indigenous consent.

Sure, you can always spend a year or two, or three or four, trying to get the courts to agree with you and to allow your project to go ahead. But by now, First Nations in Canada have won 300 court cases on rights and title and consultation.

It’s much better, then, to consult, accommodate, negotiate, and reach agreement.

Which is why I tell people not to be afraid of UNDRIP, the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Ottawa and BC are planning to build the key principles of the UN Declaration into their own laws and policies. The big one is “free, prior and informed consent” from First Nations for projects on Indigenous territory.

Some business people and politicians are afraid of this. They fear that it gives any First Nation a legal veto over resource projects. They fear that it means a multi-billion-dollar project could be buried by a single, stubborn, Indigenous band member saying NO.

But the United Nations’ own definition of free, prior and informed consent does not see that, or go that far. That definition sees consent as not a black-or-white, Yes-or-No decision, but as a process in which participation and consultation are the central pillars.

And when Canada and provinces and territories adopt UNDRIP, that will actually create no new rights. The Constitution is already clear: Indigenous peoples have rights in their territories, and successive court cases have upheld these rights.

To me, 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 we have the right to consultation and accommodation if you want to build a mine or a pipeline or a power transmission line.

As I say, the process of consultation and accommodation has produced approval by First Nations of LNG development in BC.

And that means huge benefits to our First Nations people. Not just cheques under Impact Benefit Agreements, but training and education . . . the chance to earn a trade certification that can be used at home or anywhere in the world . . . the chance of a good career, not just a short-term job . . . the chance for First Nations companies to win contracts and revenue — and even partnerships and ownership.

Let me give you some thoughts from Crystal Smith, the elected chief of the Haisla Nation and chair of the First Nations LNG Alliance. Here is what Chief Crystal says:

  • “I want First Nations members to have the same quality of life that every other person in Canada has. I want B.C.’s First Nations to be heard and be included in the discussions which impact our territories. I want us and other First Nations to achieve their independence in order to properly and effectively care for the future of our people.
  • “And so the Haisla said yes to these projects because we have concluded they will be built responsibly for our environment and will allow our people to flourish. We said yes to these projects because we believe they will provide employment not only for ourselves but for the north. . . .
  • “We said yes to LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink, because the proponents and the Province of British Columbia have approached us from a position of respect for our nations and our people. They have respected our expertise when it comes to our territory and our culture.”

Chief Crystal spoke there of quality of life.

National Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations notes that Canada and its standard of living ranks sixth in the world according to the UN Human Development Index. But apply that index and its measurements to Canada’s Indigenous people, and they rank not sixth but 63rd. That’s some quality of life. . . .

I note that the rate of unemployment here in Calgary now is 13.4 per cent, twice what it was a year ago. That’s shocking, and tragic for the people affected. But there are First Nations in Canada who have unemployment rates of not 13 per cent but 50 and 60 and 70 per cent.

What standard of living and quality of life is that?

LNG development and exports offer something of a way out of that. They offer a path to prosperity, rather than today’s poverty.

And First Nations and natural-resource developers get there through consultation based on mutual trust and respect, and through accommodation of First Nations priorities, such as environmental issues.

If you’re a developer, you can “get there from here” — through the consultation processes I have described. You listen. You learn. You build trust. You respect the environment.

And you “build the plan” together with First Nations.

Karen Ogen-Toews(Posted here 20 May 2020)

UNDRIP roadmap ‘a great thing’



Adoption in BC and Canada of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) is a real opportunity for strengthening the relationships that have been so fractured for such a long time now.

The BC government, introducing its Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, said: “It is about ending discrimination, upholding basic human rights and ensuring more economic justice and fairness.”

And the federal government says: “The UN Declaration is a statement of the collective and individual rights that are necessary for the survival, dignity and well-being of Indigenous peoples.”

Both governments will move over time to ensure their laws and policies are in harmony with the principles of UNDRIP. This creates no new rights. As BC noted: “The Constitution is clear: Indigenous peoples have rights in their territories, and successive court cases have upheld these rights.”

No new rights, then, but a new and long overdue recognition that Indigenous people are equal partners in Canada. Having Indigenous people thus acknowledged is really important. And to have the ability to track towards a happier future through public policy is a great thing.

At the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, we think the most important thing in this whole process is to make sure that Indigenous communities are continuously engaged and supported in the process.

It’s really important to have us at the table, but it’s also important to be flexible to accommodate an Indigenous world view, and Indigenous governance systems, because they are different; we do think about things differently.

When we get the business right, from a government perspective or an industry perspective or an Indigenous perspective, when we all come together, it is incredibly powerful and empowering.

The Aboriginal business sector is thriving. There are some 60,000 Indigenous businesses in Canada, contributing more than $12 billion a year to the economy. We’re gunning for $100 billion.

The 94 ‘calls to action’ of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission are bringing attention to this Indigenous economy.

Call to Action No. 92 addresses corporate Canada directly, urging companies to adopt UNDRIP as a reconciliation framework, and to apply its principles to corporate policy and operations involving Indigenous peoples, their lands and resources.

UNDRIP, then, is going to take us all into a new world of partnership rather than the told world of colonialism.

I know there are concerns and questions: Will First Nations have a veto over resource development? Could one lone Indigenous person somehow block a multi-billion-dollar project to which others and all levels of government have agreed?

I look forward to such issues being explored at the ‘Pathway to Prosperity’ conference in Vancouver on January 14th. The idea is to broaden our understanding, so that we can have more robust conversations and hopefully get to a place where UNDRIP is meaningful and entrenched in policy. (More info on the event at

In the meantime, look at the questions and fears this way: A majority of Indigenous communities and businesses support major infrastructure projects. And not merely support, but are also increasingly interested in equity positions. So now it’s all a question of process.

If consultation with First Nations has been done appropriately, and accommodation of their needs and priorities has been done appropriately, it’s going to come down to political will for governments, meaning Indigenous governments as well. I think we try to do our best do consensus building, but at one point, we’ve got to make a decision.

You put 50 different people into a room to decide on what colour to paint the walls. If you had to get 100% agreement, the walls would never get painted. So, you know, it’s just a process. If you’ve got a good process, it should never really get to a veto.

 JP Gladu is president and CEO of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business.

 (This column was first published on 02 January 2020 in Rights & Respect Magazine, Pages 19 and 20 at



Posted here 10 January 2020

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

Posted here 10 January 2020

Blog: Seeking work in LNG? ‘Do your homework.’


Jobs were firmly on attendees’ minds, of course, at the 2019 series of LNG Canada/Coastal GasLink open houses and job fairs.

At our Alliance tables, we spent time talking about the Alliance and the benefits (and jobs and careers) that responsible LNG development can bring to First Nations and their people.

But particularly among younger First Nations people we ran into much misunderstanding about how one looks for a job in the LNG field.

  • Many had come not-too-well prepared for the job-fair part of the events.
  • Some were surprised to find that employers were only taking resumes/résumés and exchanging information, and were not actually handing out jobs on the spot. “I thought they were hiring here.”
  • Some had turned up without resumes, and some had poorly prepared and inadequate documents. “I copied my dad’s, and put in my stuff, you know?”

We spoke with several employers who were hit with such shortcomings, and they agreed on one thing: “If you are looking for work, you’ve got to do your homework.”

Points they made: Have you thought about what work you hope for? Have you any training in that area? Have you looked into training? Have you done anything about training? Have you researched the companies you want to apply to? Have you got in touch with them? Have you got a readable and detailed resume?”

There’s some useful reading on career planning and job-hunting in the provincial government’s BC’s Career Guide for Indigenous People.

Wondering if your resume is up to scratch? Maybe check out with your Nation’s employment experts: What makes for a good resume? How do I make mine better? The Haisla Nation, for one, offers free resume-writing workshops.

Here’s a website is one of many that offers resume-writing tips. This one talks about ‘The three main types of resumes.’ And this one warns about ‘The Top 10 Resume Mistakes That Could Cost You the Job.’

(Our own tip: Start your resume with a quick summary of what you can offer the employer; not just with your education record and dates, or with some ideal personal “objective” you hope that the employer will somehow provide.)

Finally, have you got a driver’s licence? Many employers will ask for one, even if your initial job with the company won’t include driving. First Nations youth in BC might check out the All Nations Driving Academy. Does your Nation offer its own driving school, perhaps as a “Community Affiliate” of the academy?

When you’re absolutely ready to look for work, check out our own page of contacts for employment in the LNG field.

And if you know someone who’s interested in LNG-related work, please share this blog with them. . . .


The Indian Act? Welcome to 2019


For 24 years, from 1927 to 1951, First Nations people were not allowed to hire lawyers or pursue land claims. And others could be jailed for helping them raise legal funds.

How things have changed: By our count, First Nations across Canada have a ‘winning streak’ in recent years of 209 successful cases on title and rights, and other cases are in process.

Another example: For 52 years (1871 to 1923) First Nations people were banned from commercial fishing. Now, of course, First Nations people are leading fishers, and the five Nuu-chah-nulth nations in BC won in court this year the right to their own commercial fishery.

This is not to gloat, but to note that the times are changing. From coast to coast to coast, First Nations and their people are becoming known as business leaders, and as solid partners to non-Indigenous companies in natural-resource development.

One favourite example (although it’s in oil, rather than BC natural gas or LNG) is the 900-member Fort McKay nation in Alberta, whose three oilsands companies have been bringing in $1.7 billion a year for the last five years. They call it ‘community capitalism.’

Take the Squamish Nation in BC, which has a working partnership with Woodfibre LNG on Howe Sound, developed a unique environmental assessment agreement, and issued its own environmental certificate for the project.

Take the Haisla nation here in BC, who have a long list of non-Indigenous companies with whom the nation has working partnerships. That, of course, includes LNG developers: LNG Canada, Coastal GasLink, Kitimat LNG, and Pacific Trails Pipeline.

Chief Councillor Crystal Smith of the Haisla:

“I want First Nations members to have the same quality of life that every other person in Canada has. I want B.C.’s First Nations to be heard and be included in the discussions which impact our territories. I want us and other First Nations to achieve their independence in order to properly and effectively care for the future of our people.

“First Nations have been left out of resource development for too long, and it would be easy to say no to projects, but now we are involved, we have been consulted, and will ensure there are benefits to all First Nations involved in these projects. We do have a share, and we will have our say on how these projects are developed.

“And so the Haisla said yes to these projects because we have concluded they will be built responsibly for our environment and will allow our people to flourish. We said yes to these projects because we believe they will provide employment not only for ourselves but for the north. . . .

“We said yes to LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink, because the proponents and the Province of British Columbia have approached us from a position of respect for our nations and our people. They have respected our expertise when it comes to our territory and our culture.”

First Nations interests in doing business don’t stop there. One group of nations in BC is actively pursuing buying a share in the Coastal GasLink pipeline that will feed the LNG Canada plant at Kitimat. TC Energy, formerly known as TransCanada, plans to divest up to 75% of the line.

And you may already know that three groups of First Nations are working on proposals to buy an interest of 51% (or more) in the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion project.

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

It’s all a far cry from the era when (1866 to 1953) the Indian Act forbade First Nations people from taking up land in BC.

It’s also a far cry from the age when First Nations people weren’t allowed to vote. We didn’t get the full right to vote until 1960.

Now, with a federal election coming up this fall, Indigenous votes could play an important part in the results:

Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations notes that 61.5% of eligible First Nations voters cast their ballots in 2015, and he wants that number to increase during the upcoming election.

“If you want to become prime minister or member of Parliament, you better listen to our people and our concerns, because we vote now and have impact. That’s what’s going to happen in October. We’re not going to be pushed to the side any more.”

There will, no doubt, be more promises from candidates about further reform of — or full abolition of — the current (and supposedly ‘modernized’) Indian Act.

Until then, remember these sad points:

  • From 1869 to 1985, a First Nations woman marrying a non-Indigenous man lost her status as an “Indian.” This law did not apply to First Nations men. (See footnote below.)
  • From 1876 to 1985, a First Nations member who earned a university degree, or became a church minister, or joined the military, lost their status rights. First Nations veterans who returned from World War II were stripped of their Indian status.
  • From 1885 to 1951, the Act banned the potlatch, that important ceremony among BC coastal people. Thus 22 people were actually sent to prison in 1921 for a potlatch held at Alert Bay.
  • Under various sections of the Act, and at various times, First Nations people were barred from buying or using alcohol, could not go into pool halls or bars, could not buy ammunition, and were not allowed to leave the reserve (or wear traditional regalia off the reserve) without permission of the federal “Indian Agent” there.

And remember that the last Residential School in Canada remained open until 1996.
Even though it’s 2019 we haven’t come far enough.  Hopefully, we have embarked on a new era of reconciliation, and hopefully the results of the upcoming federal election this fall will not impact the momentum First Nations are achieving.

Footnote: On 15 August 2019, the federal government announced the final provisions of Bill S-3 now are in force. This provides for registration by First Nations descendants born before April 17, 1985 who lost their status or were removed from band lists due to marriages to non-Indigenous men.

Recommended reading:

(Posted here 09 August 2019)

BC LNG: Why we call it ‘clean’


Some 78 countries burn coal to generate electricity, including Canada (which still produces 9% of its power from coal.)

But if you burn coal in a power plant, the atmosphere is hit with more than a few emissions:

  • Sulphur/sulfur dioxide (SO2), which contributes to acid rain and respiratory illnesses;
  • Nitrogen oxides (NOx), which contribute to smog and respiratory illnesses;
  • Tiny particulates, which contribute to smog, haze, respiratory illnesses, and lung disease;
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2), which is the primary greenhouse gas produced from burning fossil fuels;
  • Mercury and other heavy metals, which have been linked to both nerve and developmental damage in humans and animals;
  • Fly ash and bottom ash, residues created when power plants burn coal, and, when stored on land, can leach pollution.

It’s a different, and much cleaner, story with natural gas, which is increasingly being used instead of coal to generate power. This graphic shows the result:

Which is why supporters of natural gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) often call the product “clean.”

Natural gas is mostly made up of methane, a colourless, odourless flammable gas. It’s not regarded as a health risk on its own.

But it is a “greenhouse gas” and governments and scientists tell us that’s not so clean. And if it is burned, it does produce some carbon dioxide, which is a more problematic greenhouse gas.

There is much heated argument and debate on whether the world’s continued use of fossil fuels is causing a greenhouse problem and over-heating the globe, and, if it is, what we can or should do about it.

What the natural-gas and LNG developers in BC are doing is tackling and reducing emissions wherever they can.

When we drill for natural gas, and produce and process and transport it, we may leak methane into the atmosphere through unwanted “fugitive emissions.”

The LNG and gas industries are working hard to reduce these, both for environmental reasons and for business reasons: Such fugitive emissions are losses of product that the developers would prefer to sell.

And then there are the emissions from LNG export plants themselves, carbon dioxide being one if a plant burns some of its incoming natural gas to drive turbines to produce electricity for the facility.

Two proposed BC plants, Kitimat LNG and Woodfibre LNG, have committed to using electricity from BC Hydro.  And more than 90% of BC Hydro’s power is produced by “renewable” hydroelectric generation.

LNG Canada has designed its export facility to have among the lowest carbon emissions of any LNG facility currently operating anywhere in the world – 50% lower than the average facility and 30% lower than the best performing facility.

LNG Canada will achieve these carbon reductions by using a combination of high-efficiency gas-turbine engines — and using hydro power from the BC grid — to power its operations.

And finally come emissions from the LNG carriers, the vessels that will deliver BC’s LNG to overseas markets. The International Maritime Organization has adopted mandatory measures to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from international shipping. And many LNG carriers use “boil-off” natural gas from their LNG cargoes as part of their fuel.

All in all, while the production of natural gas and LNG may add to BC’s greenhouse-gas emissions, the use of our LNG to replace coal-burning power plants in Asia will reduce over-all global emissions. The world benefits; and greenhouse gases do not recognize national boundaries.

Thus LNG Canada notes that if its LNG is used this way, global carbon emissions could be reduced by 60 to 90 million tonnes a year. That’s is equal to all of the carbon emissions produced in BC each year, and 10% of Canadian emissions.

And as BC environmental consultant Rob Seeley says: “This reduction is equivalent to taking 12 million to 18 million cars off the road.”

(Posted here 06 June 2019)

Blog: Leading the drive for LNG in BC


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.”
She continued:
“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.”
And now?
“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













Chief Crystal will now be a speaker at the Canadian Gas Dialogues event in Calgary April 23, and then a keynote speaker at the BC Chamber of Commerce conference and AGM in May.

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)

Resources and reconciliation


For the record, there are 634 First Nations in Canada, 198 of them in British Columbia. There are 1.3 million First Nations people in Canada, 5.6% of the population. More than 275,000 of them are in British Columbia, 6% of the provincial population.

Also for the record, their past is one of colonization and repression, and of some 70 treaties with First Nations — many of those treaties thereafter broken by “the settlers.”

Thus Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission declared in 2015:

  • “For over a century, the central goals of Canada’s Aboriginal policy were to eliminate Aboriginal governments; ignore Aboriginal rights; terminate the Treaties; and, through a process of assimilation, cause Aboriginal peoples to cease to exist as distinct legal, social, cultural, religious, and racial entities in Canada.”

In more than 200 court cases won by Indigenous people, Aboriginal rights and title have been steadily recognized and established. And the higher courts in some recent cases have held that the federal government failed in its “duty to consult and accommodate” when supporting proposals for major resource developments on Indigenous territory.

The future, I hope, is in one word, Reconciliation.

The federal government is moving toward what it calls a “Recognition and Implementation of Rights Framework.” It promises to, somehow, build principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) into Canadian law. And the BC government promises to work in partnership with Indigenous peoples “to embrace and implement UNDRIP.”

If those are steps toward Reconciliation, they will be welcome.

The First Nations LNG Alliance of BC wholeheartedly supports Reconciliation, although we recognize that it is a process that will take decades to become a given.

Our Alliance’s mission is to help to bring about what Grand Chief Abel Bosum of the Cree Nation called “the economic development partnership” and we at the Alliance call “Economic Reconciliation.”

The goal is to “close the gap” between the low standard of living of Indigenous people, and that of non-Indigenous Canadians in general.

National Chief Perry Bellegarde notes that Canada and its standard of living ranks sixth in the world according to the UN Human Development Index. Apply that index to Canada’s Indigenous people, and they rank 63rd.

We support responsible development of LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas), and its export, as a way for First Nations people in BC to begin to close that gap.

BC has vast areas of resource-rich territory that was never ceded by its Indigenous owners. It has enough natural gas to supply domestic and export demand for well over 150 years.

LNG is often called a “transition fuel”, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by displacing coal and diesel for generating power, during a global transition to renewable energies. So be it. But that transition may well take decades; 30, 40 or 50 years.

During that transition, natural-gas and LNG production and associated pipelines promise huge benefits for our First Nations communities and peoples. And thus an important tool to help close that gap.

That would be a vital contribution to “Economic Reconciliation.”

Karen Ogen-Toews
CEO, First Nations LNG Alliance



















(Posted here 03 December 2018)

Economic Reconciliation, Part 4: The road ahead


Last of a four-part series


CEO, First Nations LNG Alliance

I’ve written on the roles in reconciliation of First Nations, government and industry. I’ve primarily focused on economic reconciliation. Now I want to conclude the series with some final thoughts.

The negative impacts to First Nations have been suffered for several generations – over a century in fact. To overcome this will take great effort and resolve. And we will see some setbacks. I don’t think there is a way around this fact. The systemic change will take time – especially before it is felt at a grass-roots level.

We are all still coming to terms with our shocking history in this country and this is a key foundational first step. The path forward for all of us is murky. But I do think we all, Indigenous and non-Indigenous share some important values:

  • The importance of family and community
  • The importance of our environment
  • Prosperity
  • Equal access to the benefits of Canada
  • Inclusiveness

It it is clear that there is a high level of inequality in Canada, one only has to look at the appalling statistics that plague Indigenous communities to see it. While we are embarking on a brave new journey forward, we are starting a new chapter of history in Canada. One that is more inclusive and equitable, I hope.

Ultimately, it will come down to all of us individually as well. We have to be open to learning about each other and have compassion and understanding for each other. It’s basic dignity we need to provide to each other as we move through uncertain times.

And for those successes we have reached at an institutional lever, such as the recent Final Investment Decision for the LNG Canada project, and for the Coastal Gaslink pipeline that will bring LNG to Kitimat, we all must be diligent in ensuring the agreements reached between government, industry and First Nations are implemented fully.

Now is not the time to become complacent. Implementing something is always more challenging than negotiating it. We must work hard on realizing the economic, procurement, and employment benefits through this project. We must continue to work hard on rigorous environmental monitoring. We must continue to engage on these topics and to learn from each other.

We will see, too, what impact the BC government will have with its proposed new Environmental Assessment Act, which would require from developers a commitment to seek free, prior and informed consent from Indigenous communities for major resource projects.

The change is based on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). And Environment Minister George Heyman says it will reflect the reality that the success of any major industrial project in BC rests on meaningful partnerships with Indigenous communities.

The First Nations Leadership Council sees significant improvements in the new law (while objecting that it does not propose veto-power for First Nations) and says it “begins to make space for proper relations between Indigenous laws and legal orders, and those of the Crown.”

We don’t know yet how the new law will technically define and apply “a commitment to seek free, prior and informed consent.”

But we are already seeing strenuous efforts by developers in BC to bring about what looks to us very much like free, prior and informed consent.

That’s a most encouraging sign, of willingness to learn, of willingness to be true and considerate partners, and of willingness to acknowledge the negative impacts of the colonial settlement of BC that began 160 years ago.

But the many negative reactions to what we post online here, both by Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, show how far we in BC and Canada have to go to see eye-to-eye on what reconciliation means. This shows how much further dialogue is needed on these topics.

We are at the beginning of a new journey to reconciliation in Canada. Please join me in being committed to this goal, even though it will be a challenging journey.