Malaysia’s PETRONAS crown corporation holds a 25% stake in LNG Canada’s CAD $ 40 billion project in Kitimat. This massive development is dependant on the Coastal GasLink pipeline that TransCanada is building to transport the natural gas from Dawson Creek to Kitimat. To realize the extent of PETRONAS’ interest in the completion of this pipeline, it is important to understand that much of the natural gas that will flow to Kitimat through the pipeline will come from PETRONAS’ own North Montney fields. While this pipeline has been approved by the B.C. and federal governments, it has been criticized by Amnesty International, the B.C.’s Human Rights Commission and the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. As noted in the Globe and Mail, the UN committee 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.
Although there are reportedly signed benefit with most of First Nations involved in the passage of the pipeline, there is opposition from the Wet’suwet’en Nation who have built the Unist’ot’en healing camp in its path. As explained in the Globe and Mail, the opposition to the pipeline “hinges on an old question many First Nations in Canada face: Whether authority over resource development lies with elected band councils, hereditary leaders or both. Five elected Wet’suwet’en band councils, whose authority is coded in the federal Indian Act, signed agreements with Coastal GasLink, along with 15 other B.C. elected band councils that accepted the pipeline. But the Wet’suwet’en also have a system of five matrilineal clans and 13 houses, each of which has at least one hereditary chief. Together the chiefs oversee traditional territories that, like many First Nations lands in B.C., were never ceded by treaty. Two house chiefs supported the pipeline, only to have their titles stripped by other chiefs. Eight of the house chiefs say the risk of environmental damage to the land is too great to allow the pipeline, and are part of the movement against it.”
There are reported to be at least 51 unregulated and unapproved dams in Northern BC built by oil and gas companies for their fracking operations. The two largest facilities, Lily Dam and the Energy Town Dam, both over 15 meters tall, are operated by PETRONAS subsidiary, Progress Energy Canada Ltd. The scale of these dams means that they should be classified as ‘major projects‘ under BC’s Environmental Assessment Act. requiring that they be assessed by the Assessment Office (EAO) prior to construction. On Oct. 31 2017 the provincial Environmental EAO rejected an application by the company seeking to exemption for these structures from an environmental assessment.The dams have reportedly been operational for many years under the watch of the previous Liberal government and the new NDP Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Michelle Mungall is reported to have stated that their government is “reviewing the details in order to strengthen oversight going forward,”
On Oct 10th this year, while the Progress Energy application for exemption was still in progress, Okanagan Indigenous leader, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and Ben Parfitt of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives wrote that “If the EAO grants Progress’s request, it sends a terrible signal that BC really is the Wild West. Rules and regulations are simply there to be ignored.” While the EAO has finally applied its own rules, saving us from the Wild West designation, this decision leaves us wondering, how well the authors’ terms, applied to our province in the preceding years of Liberal rule. More pertinently, it leaves us wondering if, under the new NDP/Green regime, we will finally get the proper oversight of such dams and if in future there will be prior consultation with the First Nations on whose traditional lands they are being built.
Today is Canada’s 150th birthday! And the celebrations are being carried out on a grand scale. I do not object but I can not participate in the symbols of nation unreflectively. First peoples have set up camp on parliament hill. They have been allowed to do so after initial resistance from the RCMP and our dashing and generous PM has gracefully and photogenically paid his respects. What can I say… I am a recent immigrant living on unceded territory but power, if not justice, is on my side. Will I give up what is now mine in the the name of what is just … probably not without a struggle. But then it is as much a struggle, spiritually speaking, to occupy the place that my family and I have taken under the auspices of the Canadian state. The history is palpable all around us … in place markers, and in derelict lives as well as in proud ones. I feel it, and although I join in the celebrations, I do not do so without recognizing the genocidal legacy into which I am assimilating .
An enduring symbol of Canada is the uniform of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The Mounties who wear it are loved and respected by the mainstream of Canadian life but to those on the margins of this order, their symbol bears a different meaning. The RCMP are the front line in hegemonic Canada’s ongoing repression of both the abject dereliction and the proud resistance of Indigenous peoples. There are however a handful of native RCMP officers who operate at the very front of this frontline. It seems to me that they might be the bearers of the impossible burden of the paradox and the pain of being both native and Canadian in one human being. Corporal Ron Francis was one such mountie. His story is tragic, beginning with ideals, followed by 20 years of service and ending in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, medical marijuana, public protest, confiscation of beloved uniform and ultimately, suicide.