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Native Pipeline Sell Outs in B.C.?

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In an attempt to clear up some of the confusion running rampant over the Internet this morning concerning B.C. Indigenous communities and their support of pipelines, I’ve tried to unravel the mystery of who these “sell-outs” actually are.

First off, let me say that yes, it would be incorrect to assume that every single Indigenous band across Canada is against corporate pipelines and government energy products.

Such blanket statements just cannot be made.

There is no such thing as a “pan-Indian” culture or any way to assume that an Indigenous band in B.C. and one in the Maritimes would have exactly the same traditions or the same politics.

Canada is a huge land mass, we’re the second largest country in the world, so it’s pretty ridiculous to assume that all Indigenous people would be in agreement over everything – that’s comparable to saying that the people from Sweden are the same as the people from Italy just because they share a continent.

Plus, there can sometimes be conflict between the opinions of the people in such-and-such band and what the band chief and council believe, as with every democracy.

So where did this notion of the native-sell-out come from? Digging through a bunch of different posts and taking a peek at different Facebook pages, this idea that the fight against pipelines is not unified can be traced back to the province of British Columbia.

To cite one news headline is particular here is a story that came out in December of 2014.

Regarding recognizable Indigenous nation names in B.C. is the Wet’suwet’en First Nation. They have been in the news recently regarding the presence of the Unist’ot’en camp which is an active flash point site between corporate interest and citizen interests in regards to pipelines.

Recently mentioned in a NOW Magazine article concerning the anti-pipeline movement, the Unist’ot’en camp is described by activist Sakura Saunders as a focal point of resistance to the route of two pipelines  (the proposed Pacific Trails and Northern Gateway Pipelines in Northern B.C) where, “the occupation is an ‘enforcement of Wet’suwet’en law over the illegal incursions of the oil and gas companies,’ not violence and extremism the RCMP is trying to portray.”

In fact, to help pull this conflict apart, let me note that on December 13, 2014, it was widely reported that the Wet’suwet’en First Nation signed a $13 Million LNG pipeline agreement with the B.C. provincial government.

In a press release, the Wet’suwet’en First Nation (WFN) Chief and Council stated that they were pleased to confirm the signing of the LNG pipeline benefits agreement with the Province of British Columbia.

“We are fully concerned about maintaining the environment while pursuing economic opportunities that will provide sustainability to our community.  We have taken a leap of faith to sign these agreements because we are aware that these are time sensitive opportunities,” said Chief Karen Ogen.

Financially, what this agreement means for the WFN is that they will receive approximately $2.8 Million from the province, broken up into three different stages of the Coastal Gas Link (CGL) gas pipeline project. This includes a payment of $464,000 within ninety days after signing the agreement; $1,160,000 when the pipeline construction actually starts (sometime this year); and $1,160,000 when the pipeline is finally in service.

The WFN is also set to receive a yet-to-be-determined share of $10 million in ongoing benefits for the lifespan the pipeline is operation, which is estimated at between 25 to 35 years.

A B.C. Environmental Stewardship Initiative (ESI) has been set up between the WFN Chief and Council, working in collaboration with other neighbouring First Nations, that will see another huge payout – this time from the province to the tune of $30 million.

On top of this, the province is also including another $30 million for an educational and training fund for the area so that people will have the necessary employment skills needed to work on the pipeline. 

That’s a lot of money.

Now the WFN maintains that they are still against oil pipelines, just not natural gas pipelines. Supporters of the project claim that there is a huge difference between liquid natural gas and oil or bitumen, and thus the transportation of natural gas is much safer and with less risk to the surrounding environment.

Liquid natural gas contains, among other things, ethane, propane and cancer-causing benzene.

There is also the chance of leaks. For instance, “a Denver Colorado Pipeline (DCP) operator saw stained surface soil about 7 miles north of Keenesburg on January 30, 2015, and reported the spill. DCP has excavated 7 cubic yards of the soil and deployed a contractor to conduct lab tests for benzene and other toxic chemicals and to find the leak.” 

In the press release announcing the cash, the WFN states that, “We remain opposed to them [oil or bitumen pipelines] because of their serious potential environmental impacts on our territories and traditional hunting grounds. This is liquefied natural gas, which has minimal risk during its transportation through these pipelines. We are confident that this opportunity will be beneficial not only to WFN but many other progressive nations as well.”

What do you all think?

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