By BRIAN GIESBRECHT
Frontier Centre for Public Policy
SUPPORT CONTINUES for the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation blocking authorized construction of a natural gas pipeline in northern British Columbia. In spite of court injunctions and government pronouncements telling them to desist, they seem prepared for a long and protracted struggle, “having no intention of allowing Wet’suwet’en sovereignty to be violated.”
This is in spite of the fact that the other 20 First Nations communities along the pipeline route have agreed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline project to a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Kitimat.
The project would bring LNG to countries now depending on coal for their electricity needs. It’s also vitally important to the British Columbia and Canadian economies (including the First Nations communities that have signed on, needing the employment and revenue it promises).
While the project is a win-win for the province, the country, the environment and B.C.’s First Nations, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs don’t see it that way, at least if the pipeline traverses what they claim is traditional land.
What is traditional land is not clear, as many groups claim the same Crown land (land that in theory belongs to all of us).
It is also unclear who is funding these hereditary chiefs. Researcher Vivian Krause’s investigative work has uncovered financial ties between disparate groups and the hereditary chiefs.
It’s not known what will happen next in this long and ruinously expensive battle to bring this project to completion.
However, it’s a stunning illustration of the chaos that now exists in Canada’s vital natural resources sector. A combination of ideological governments, an activist Supreme Court and aggressive Indigenous claims – fuelled by taxpayer money – has made it virtually impossible to develop Canada’s vast natural resources.
Between recent legal inventions like “duty to consult” and “Aboriginal title,” and the reckless adoption by governments of such perilous ideas, it has become a nightmare for anyone trying to make Canada more prosperous.
Onerous court decisions and politically motivated environmental restrictions have stopped projects cold, causing investors and developers to head to greener pastures in more welcoming countries. Canada is losing well-paying jobs, bringing higher government deficits, a weak dollar and higher inflation.
And all of this has done nothing to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of marginalized Indigenous people stuck in dependent First Nations communities.
Although some people are making big money out of the skirmishes, including the expensive law firms directing the show, the large gap between the majority of Indigenous people and the mainstream population hasn’t narrowed at all. The Indigenous underclass remains unemployed and dependent, while demonstrations, court battles, and endless victim inquiries go on and on.
They need real jobs, not pressure to support questionable demonstrations. Just like other rural Canadians, most young Indigenous people increasingly have to prepare for life in a high-tech urban environment. While Indigenous youth can keep as much of their cultural identity as they like, making themselves employable should be their number one concern.
While the culture wars are going on around them, on the streets, and in courts and legislatures, young Indigenous people are best advised to avoid those distractions.
Instead, they should concentrate on the only formula for success that works for everyone: see to your education, work hard and go where the jobs are. Providing the jobs survive wrongheaded protests.
Brian Giesbrecht, a retired judge, is a senior fellow at Frontier Centre for Public Policy.
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