Thursday, August 21, 2014
Text Size

First Nations’ LNG fight takes wing on an eagle’s feather

MARK HUME

VANCOUVER — The Globe and Mail

Sharleen Gale, the young Fort Nelson chief who shook the government last week when she kicked its officials out of an energy conference, knew a showdown was coming and she’d have to be strong.

That’s why she held the sacred eagle feather in her hands when she took the podium at the BC First Nations LNG Summit and – with representatives from about 60 bands and major industry players looking on – told government delegates to get out.

“I respectfully ask government to please remove yourself from the room. I’m going to ask industry to stay,” said Chief Gale, whose stern face only partly hid her anger.

As the stunned officials from Victoria walked out, drums and native chants ringing in their ears, Chief Gale stood at the podium with the eagle feather held defiantly over her head.

That image may become a defining one in the movement by First Nations to gain greater control over what resource developments take place in their traditional lands.

Chief Gale said delivering the rebuke was hard, but she knew she had to do it.

“That morning I decided like, I need to bring my feather. I’ve got some important decisions to make and it gives me strength, it gives me courage. It’s like a message from our ancestors that they are watching, they’re guiding us,” she said in an interview.

The sudden ejection of government officials from a conference that was supposed to foster goodwill with First Nations over LNG development in the north, sent shock waves all the way to Victoria.

And well it should, because, without First Nation support, the government’s whole LNG strategy could fall apart.

The crisis was triggered by a decision the government made weeks earlier – but which people didn’t learn about until Tuesday, while the conference was under way.

Chief Gale became incensed when she learned the government, without any public consultation, had amended the Reviewable Projects Regulation to exempt sweet natural gas processing plants from environmental assessment. The change meant gas plants could be built without any regard for First Nations’ concerns about the environment.

Chief Gale, who is 33, worked for Spectra Energy for 12 years before getting elected to lead her community in 2012. She is not against the oil and gas industry.

The theme of the conference was “striking a balance” – which, to her, means taking environmental concerns into account, not just profit. “Striking a balance isn’t just about money. It’s about the land. It’s about people.”

Her band sits atop three of the province’s biggest shale gas fields. The raw resource that will fill the pipelines, processing plants and tankers the government so badly wants to see in B.C., will mostly come from Chief Gale’s traditional territory. And her band is determined not to let that happen if it means unacceptable environmental degradation.

“When the Alaska Highway came through it changed our people in 20 short years and the LNG strategy that the government is proposing is the new Alaska Highway for our generation,” she said. “I think it’s important that I step up as a leader … to do the right thing for generations to come.”

Her message to government and industry: “The Fort Nelson First Nation is governing their territory. We are the decision makers. We are the ones that are going to make the decision of what project goes through or not … we’re not against development, but we do say no to bad ideas.”

The day after Chief Gale took her dramatic stand, Environment Minister Mary Polak withdrew the amendment, promising more consultation, but Chief Gale wants more – a sit down with Premier Christy Clark.

“Most definitely a line has been drawn and there’s only one way forward – and that’s a chief-to-chief meeting,” she said.

If Ms. Clark wants to save her energy agenda, she’d better start there.

Whatever Trevor

Dis is Trevor.

Blast from the past: FP archive

When is Consultation, Consultation?

Ovide Mercredi

National Chief – AFN

During a Treaty Roundtable meeting of the Alberta Chiefs, I took note of a federal government document outlining their strategy to define and ultimately impose their own form of self-government. Read more...

Letting go of residential schools

by Gilbert Oskaboose, Nov 1993 First Perspective

There is a lot of "unfinished business" in Indian Country. Garbage that we as a people have never really dealt with. Chief among them is the whole issue of those infamous residential schools and their impact on people. Read more...

OBIDIAH

obidiah picture

ANALYSIS - Bill Gallagher

gallagher picture

Under the Northern Sky by Xavier Kataquapit

Under the Northern Sky by Xavier Kataquapit

JOBS

First Nations Cultural Interpreter PM – 02 Riding Mountain National Park Seasonal Indeterminate

(May to October) From $54,543 to $58,764

Closing Sept. 19, 2014

Read More

ASSISTANT DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL, ABORIGINAL JUSTICE DIVISION (AMENDED)

Organization: Ministry of the Attorney General, Aboriginal Justice

Toronto, Deadline: Aug. 25, 2014 11:50 pm EDT Read more...

Regional Media Officer– Temp (Until Nov 2015) –F/T Position

Office of the Leader of the Official Opposition / NDP Research Office

Location:131 Queen Street, Suite 10-02, Ottawa, ON

Responsibilities

Communicate regularly with regional media outlets (community newspapers, radio stations, student media, ethnic media, etc.) to propose ideas for interviews and opinion content Read more...

Canadian Chamber of Commerce Aboriginal Workforce Report

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce released a report that highlights initiatives to improve the workforce participation of Aboriginal peoples. 

Opportunity Found: Improving the Participation of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada’s Workforce (December 2013)  

click image to download report

Wed Jul 23 @ 9:00AM - 05:00PM
Asinabka Film Media Arts Festival
Sun Jul 27 @12:00AM
World Indigenous Business Forum 2014

EVENTS

August 2014
S M T W T F S
27 28 29 30 31 1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31 1 2 3 4 5 6
imageimageimageimageimage
cartoonscartoonscartoonscartoonscartoons

Current Video

RIP Percy Tuesday

 

Thanks to Althea Guiboche for allowing The First Perspective to share her video taken at the Manitowapow book launch at McNally Robinson. 

Percey sings Freddy Fender's "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" and people join in to harmonize. 

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO): The Washington Redskins