Tamara Starblanket has been awarded the 2020 Nora and Ted Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy for her book Suffer the Little Children: Genocide, Indigenous Nations and the Canadian State. In this book, Tamara makes a legal analysis of genocide, and argues convincingly that, according to international law, Canada has committed and continues to commit genocide against Indigenous Peoples. She demands, as noted in the announcement of the award on the SFU website, that a “comprehensive dialogue on Canada’s history and present be opened recognizing its culpability for the crime of genocide.”
As I contemplate the disturbing idea of a Canadian Genocide, in terms of my own life and times, I am convinced that as human beings have an innate tendency to demonize and destroy each other. When we act this out collectively, against other collectives, this is when the what we mean by ‘genocide’. It seems to me that we are deluded as to our own actions and motivations of the moment. This is what enables us to disregard the sanctity and the inherent worth of others as we pursue our own group interests. Ultimately, given our common human being, this behaviour is self-destructive. In this series of posts, I will reflect on the the relationship between genocide and suicide from the perspective of an immigrant to Canada, who is domiciled in British Columbia.
The Coastal Gaslink pipeline infrastructure that will connect the PETRONAS’ North Montney gas fields to the LNG Canada export terminal on BC’s West Coast must pass through Wet’suwet’en territory and the Wet’suwet’en are objecting and resisting on the basis of Aboriginal title. In Delgamuukw v. British Columbia (1977) the Supreme Court of Canada court defined Aboriginal title as Indigenous peoples’ exclusive right to the land, and affirmed that such title is recognized as an “existing aboriginal right” in s.35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The Canadian Encyclopedia notes however that, such rights as are recognized and affirmed are, however, not absolute and that Government regulation can infringe upon these if it meets the test of justification under s. 35(1).
Economic development through agriculture, mining, forestry and hydroelectric power, as well as the related building of infrastructure and settlement of foreign populations, are held to be valid legislative objectives that satisfy the justification requirement. These legislative objectives are, nevertheless, subject to accommodation of the aboriginal peoples’ interests in accordance with the honour and good faith of the Crown. Such accommodation of “aboriginal title” entails notifying and consulting aboriginal peoples with respect to the development of the affected territory, as well as providing fair compensation.
On 13, 2020, it was reported on the UNIST’OT’EN website that, in what would be an escalation of the conflict over CGL pipeline, the RCMP (Police) have set up an “exclusion zone” at 27km and are blocking media, Wet’suwet’en people, and food from getting up to their territory. The report claims that this is a violation of the Wet’suwet’en’s human rights, of Wet’suwet’en law, and of their constitutionally protected rights as Indigenous people. The report also highlights the fact that the ‘last time RCMP set up an ‘exclusion zone,’ they had authorized lethal force against unarmed people.”
I am observing these developments as a Malaysian resident of British Columbia and I cant help thinking of our own Malaysian indignation at the Indian state’s mistreatment of Kashmiris with curfews and media black outs. Malaysians must be made aware that our premier Crown Corporation stands to benefit from these apparently analogous acts of the Canadian state. As I have noted before Malaysia’s PETRONAS’ investment in Kitimat is totally dependant on this CGL pipeline which will transport natural gas from PETRONAS’ own North Montney fields. So once again, the interests of the exemplary Malaysian bumiputera (indigenous) led enterprise is contrary to the those of a group of indigenous people from British Columbia.
According to a post on the UNIST’OT’EN website Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs have submitted a formal request to the United Nations to monitor RCMP (police), government and Coastal GasLink (CGL) actions on their traditional, unceded territory. This request follows the directive from the UN Committee on Racial Discrimination (CERD) requiring Canada to halt the pipeline project and withdraw RCMP from our territory in order to avoid further violations of Wet’suwet’en, constitutional, and international law. This submission reveals the Chiefs’ perception of the imminent threat posed by the RCMP and security forces currently surrounding Wet’suwet’en villages and lands.
As I have noted before Malaysia’s PETRONAS crown corporation holds a 25% stake in LNG Canada’s Kitimat development which is totally dependant on this CGLpipeline. This pipeline is intended to transport natural gas from Dawson Creek to Kitimat and much of this gas will come from PETRONAS’ own North Montney fields. As noted in the Globe and Mail, the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination says that it is imperative that all affected First Nations give free, prior and informed consent before the pipeline proceeds. So once again, the interests of the exemplary Malaysian bumiputra (indigenous) led enterprise is contrary to the those of a group of indigenous people from British Columbia.
The 20-million-gallon Lily Dam, one of the two unlicensed dams for which Progress Energy received retroactive exemption from environmental review. Photo by Ben Parfitt.
In an earlier post I had noted that Progress Energy, now known as PETRONAS Canada had been accused of building two massive unlicensed dams in violation of provincial environmental regulations. It has since been reported that that British Columbia’s Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) allowed these massive unauthorized dams to be exempt from environmental assessments. According to Ben Parfaitt in Policy Note these dams had previously been described in internal documents of the very same EAO as being ‘illegal works’. This is a disturbing precedent because there are other unlicensed dams in the gas fields of Northern BC that stand to be given the same kind of retrospective exemption. This move by the EAO is indicative of the dominance of corporate interests generally, and PETRONAS’ imperatives in particular, within the provincial administrative process.
According to the Globe and Mail, the B.C. Sierra Club, which is a conservation group, is suing the British Columbia government to get these retrospective exemptions revoked. Olivia French, the lawyer representing the B.C. Sierra Club has stated that “Progress Energy acted with a bit of disregard for B.C.’s laws — one of those typical, ‘Ask for forgiveness, not for permission’ sort of positions.” As Green Party MLA Sonia Furstenau has said that the EAO’s decision to grant Progress’s extraordinary request for retrospective exemption fuels public distrust of the relationship between government and the powerful industries it regulates.
In an earlier post I had noted how on July 13 2018, LNG Canada formally welcomed PETRONAS as their fifth Joint Venture participant and how this investment was connected with TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink pipeline that is building to transport the natural gas from Dawson Creek to the LNG Canada terminal in Kitimat. Much of the gas to be transported to market via the pipeline and terminal will , of course, come from PETRONAS owned Progress Energy’s own gas fields in the North Montney area. On November 22, 2018 Progress Energy Canada Ltd. changed its name to PETRONAS Energy Canada Ltd. (PETRONAS Canada). Mark Fitzgerald, President & CEO of PETRONAS Canada said, “The name change is a reflection of our parent company’s commitment to Canada and the strength of our business in the company’s overall portfolio.” Malaysian Crown corporation PETRONAS now not only owns one of the largest natural gas resources in the Montney basin, but is also a key player in getting Canadian LNG to market across the Pacific ocean.
If PETRONAS goes ahead with its new LNG Terminal investment in BC, the Malaysian crown corporation will hold a 25% stake in LNG Canada’s CAD $ 40 billion project. This investment will be closely aligned with the Coastal GasLink pipeline that TransCanada is building to transport the natural gas from Dawson Creek to Kitimat. A further enmeshment to note that much of the natural gas will come from PETRONAS’ own North Montney fields. All the parties involved in this set of developments, the corporations, the provincial government and the federal government have their eyes on the burgeoning Asian market for the LNG .
There remain, however, some unresolved and under reported conflicts with First Nations in connection with both the terminal and the pipeline. Although there are reportedly signed benefit agreements with 19 of the 20 First Nations involved, there is some entrenched opposition. Some members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation have built the Unist’ot’en healing camp in the path of the pipeline. So once again, the interests of the exemplary Malaysian bumiputra (indigenous) led enterprise is contrary to the those of a group of indigenous peoples from British Columbia.
On Friday, 20th October, a totem pole carved by Tsimshian artist Phil Gray of a wolf and an orca fin was ceremoniously erected on Lelu Island British Columbia to commemorate the victory of the resistance against the PETRONAS/ provincial government of British Columbia/ Federal government of Canada plans for a massive LNG terminal. According to Ian Gill in his article in the Tyee Gwishawaal Ken Lawson, a house leader of the Gitwilgyoots tribe said modestly, “It’s a small pole, but the wolf is here,” Ken Lawson jointly claims stewardship rights and responsibilities on Lelu Island with Simoyget Yahaan, Don Wesley for the Tsimshian First Nation. In the course of the proceedings, Don Wesley, who publically led the resistance to protect the island and the Skeena watershed, was presented with a copper shield by Guujaaw, the leader of the Haida Nation to acknowledge his resistance.
According to the Nikkei Asian Review, Progress Energy, a subsidiary of Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional (PETRONAS) has just put its oil and gas assets in Deep Basin, Alberta up for sale. Given this upcoming sale and also the cancellation of their massive Pacific Northwest LNG project on Lelu island, British Columbia, it appears that Progress Energy and PETRONAS will be concentrating their future Canadian investments and activities in North Montney, British Columbia. Progress Energy claims that it is the largest holder of contiguous areas of land in Montney and that over 13,000 drilling locations have been identified of which about 215 wells have been drilled.
Former BC Premier Christie Clark ran a political fundraising regime that was described as “the wild west of Canadian political cash” in a New York Times headline. While there may not have been any illegality about financial contributions under this regime its appropriateness and suitability in a genuine and people oriented democracy is clearly in doubt. Also, its implications for corporate influence over the economic affairs of the province are worth reviewing as the Liberals, now in opposition, have joined the new NDP/Green government in the push for change. There are no limits on political donations in B.C. and it is reported in the Globe and Mail that their review of public records found dozens of paid lobbyists actually make large contributions in their own names and not, more transparently, in the names of those of the interests they represent.
One such donor is Byng Giraud, the top in-house lobbyist for and Vice President of Woodfibre LNG. He has apparently given the B.C. Liberals $47,149 in 20 payments, under his own name. Another Woodfibre LNG manager, Marian Ngo, seems to have given the party $28,000, in 14 donations. The Globe and Mail cites Mr Giraud as saying that donating under one’s own name “is common practice,” as the fund-raiser ticket-purchase forms on the Liberal party’s website often had no field to put the company name. The point here is that whatever the ethical complexion of the corporate investor, it the up to our provincial government to set the tone for doing business here, and in no way should provincial economic decision making be as tinged by the colour of money as it appears to have been of late. The new NDP/Green government of British Columbia must deliver on their campaign promises about changing the law in this regard.