These are difficult times when emotions run high and past wrongs are remembered. It is a time for patience, understanding, and compassion between friends and neighbours.
The Green Party of Ontario stands in support of the Wet’suwet’en people in B.C. In the spirit of understanding and as President of the Bay of Quinte Chapter of the Green Party of Ontario, I would like to offer some words of explanation and, I hope, of kindness.
My words are based on a letter by Paul Manly, Member of Parliament for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, in B.C.
The dispute relates to the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline – running 670 km from the Dawson Creek area on the Alberta border, to B.C.’s west coast – transporting natural gas to a liquefied natural gas facility near Kitimat. The proposed route crosses Wet’suwet’en territory for approximately a third of its length. It runs through the historic Kweese trail, including burial grounds and archeological sites and where the Wet’suwet’en people do cultural training, including hunting, trapping, and berry picking. It is where they have built their healing centre.
Wet’suwet’en land has never been ceded to Canada and there is no treaty between the Wet’suwet’en people and the Federal government. Canada’s Supreme Court has recognized the hereditary system and hereditary laws govern land rights not band councils, which are constituted under Canada’s Indian Act.
While some band councils have agreed to the proposed route due to the promise of jobs or financial benefits, we must consider the difficult position they are in. They have been offered a choice – take the money or not – because the pipeline is going through anyway. They know that regulators have never turned down a mega-project. The Wet’suwet’ens have proposed an alternative route, which Coastal GasLink has rejected. Instead of ongoing discussions, the impasse has led to today’s conflict.
In support of the pipeline, it is said it will pay for hospitals and schools. But in ten years, B.C.’s natural gas revenues have declined from 1.2 billion dollars to less than a tenth of that, despite volumes increasing by 70 per cent. Companies have received royalty tax breaks, including not paying B.C.’s carbon tax, provincial sales tax, and receiving subsidized hydro-power from the Site C Dam, which itself was opposed by First Nations, including a request from the United Nations to stop construction.
The gas is from fracking – an environmentally damaging process. LNG Canada, includes five foreign multinationals, three of them state-owned from China, Korea, and Malaysia. It has received $250 million in subsidies from the Federal government.
In terms of the environment, natural gas is held up as a transition fuel helping us phase out coal. But factoring in the leakage from fracking fields and infra-structure, and the fact that methane is 80 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, fracked gas may be no better than coal in terms of its greenhouse gas footprint.
Canada has signed on to the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous People. But what does it mean? The Green Party of Ontario stands in support of the rights of the Wet’suwet’en people, for the environment, and for economic common sense. The Wet’suwet’en people are on the front line of defending their rights and the rights of their children and grandchildren. They are also protecting the rights of our children and grandchildren to live in a world that supports them and the environment that sustains them.
Bay of Quinte Green Party of Ontario