PIPELINE POLITICS – Wet’suwet’en protests throw us all into chaos

(Image: Coastal GasLink, Facebook)

While the project is a win for the province, the country, the environment and B.C.’s First Nations, these hereditary chiefs don’t see it that way

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.”

Brian Giesbrecht.

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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4 Comments on PIPELINE POLITICS – Wet’suwet’en protests throw us all into chaos

  1. Tony Brumell // February 27, 2020 at 1:59 PM // Reply

    I have so much trouble trying to comprehend a judge (retired or not ) wouls so missunderstand the difference between the traditional hereditary government of F/N and the white gov’t imposed elected chiefs and council.They like our multi level government have little to nn jurisdiction on policy issues. Like land rights and environment. Elected chiefs and councils (as I understand it ) have jurisdiction only on reserve properties and local politics/rules (laws )
    The “white is right ” government has been imposing issues on F/N for far to long .
    It has been forced by it’s own courts to recognize F/N rights and titles and now when it comes to huge dollars they want to throw those supreme court rulings Like Sparrow and Delgamuk down the toilet.
    The fight over this gas pipeline is after all only about the route that CGS has chosen.The hereditary chiefs have given an alternate route that would be acceptable to them. It seems to me that there should be room here to negotiate an accord with the elected chiefs to force the alternate route.
    Judge or not I agree with Mr Gamble that the comments from Mr Giesbrect are bigoted and come from the “White is right ” frame of mind.

  2. Ken McClelland // February 27, 2020 at 11:43 AM // Reply

    By all means, let’s export the well-paying jobs so we can stand around and complain about nothing but minimum wage jobs, if we even have jobs. Instead of listening to the large majority of progressive First Nations folks looking for full participation in the economy, let’s perpetuate the cycle of unemployment, poverty, addiction, and crummy conditions on our First Nations reserves because a very small minority of un-elected folks whose day has come and gone are pouting. Let’s continue to import dirty oil from offshore while we leave our efficiently produced resources in the ground. Let’s keep China on dirty coal power instead of clean LNG. Good thing all those emissions respect boundaries, stop at Canada’s 200 mile offshore limit and take a detour. But we’ll be able to hold our heads high. We might be broke, and bear a striking resemblance to Venezuela, without the comfortable warm temps, but we’ll be proud of it, and full of virtue. By the way, none of the politicians that are allowing all of this to happen will be broke or suffer adversity, just the people whose interests they pledged to promote and protect.

  3. Mr. Giesbrecht comments for the most part are bigoted. Another privileged white guy telling indigenous people what’s good for them.

    Yes Mr. Giesbrecht it is Wet’suwet’en traditional land. And No in theory it doesn’t “…belong to all of us”.

    If these lands belongs to all of us, then so does your cushy backyard. So what’s your address again so I can come and pitch my tent? Mind if I bring my dogs?

  4. Ian MacKenzie // February 27, 2020 at 6:21 AM // Reply

    “While Indigenous youth can keep as much of their cultural identity as they like, making themselves employable should be their number one concern.” Eh? Well what if making themselves employable in fossilized industries is in fact the opposite of keeping their cultural identities? Their culture is based upon the 7 generation principle. It’s past time we all adopt that principle.

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