Protest stunts distract from real efforts

While elected aboriginal leaders struggle against poverty, outside gas pipeline protesters play to urban media

Victoria anarchist and veteran protester Zoe Blunt (right) with friends at the Unist'ot'en camp.

“I am tired of managing poverty.”

The words of Lake Babine Nation Chief Wilf Adam were quoted by both Aboriginal Relations Minister John Rustad and Premier Christy Clark at their second annual meeting with aboriginal leaders around the province.

In her closing remarks, Clark repeated her aim to continue economic development and resource revenue sharing that have dominated the government’s approach in recent years.

“Let’s eliminate poverty in First Nations communities,” she said, adding “the only way we can fight poverty is to grow the economy.”

Not surprisingly, Clark’s chosen example was the potential of liquefied natural gas development for the Haisla Nation near Kitimat.

That and similar proposals require new gas pipelines. And as is customary in B.C., what people most often hear about are threats and wild claims regarding protests such as the Unist’ot’en camp near Smithers, set up to block a gas pipeline.

There was a round of this in late August, after Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the militant Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs claimed hundreds of RCMP officers were about to descend on the camp. This echoed previous false claims made by self-styled anarchists such as Victoria’s Zoe Blunt, who has been organizing outside support for the camp for the last couple of years.

(Blogger Greg Renouf has tracked the activities of this camp, and followed Blunt’s other exploits for years.)

Media jumped at the prospect of another Gustafson Lake-style confrontation. This prompted an unusual statement from Cpl. Janelle Shoihet of the North District RCMP.

“To clarify, the B.C. RCMP has no intention of ‘taking down the camp’ set up by the Unist’ot’en,” she said, emphasizing that police are not taking sides or acting as security for pipeline exploration crews being harassed by protesters, who have token support from a couple of dissident members of a Wet’suwet’en clan.

Four elected chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en issued their own statement, to correct media coverage that represents the Unist’ot’en as speaking for their communities.

“Our Nations support responsible resource development as a way to bring First Nations out of poverty and bring opportunities for our young people,” said Burns Lake Band Chief Dan George.

Wet’suwet’en First Nation Chief Karen Ogen said job and benefit agreements for the Coastal GasLink pipeline were entered into after careful consideration, and she objected to protests from outsiders, some from outside the country.

“Sustainability means standing on our own two feet, providing our young people with good paying jobs, and reducing the 40 to 60 per cent unemployment we now experience,” Ogen said.

Haisla Nation Chief Councillor Ellis Ross has no time for crude oil projects, but he has been working towards gas-related development as long as anyone.

Ross spoke out in support of the elected Wet’suwet’en chiefs in their efforts to resolve the dispute with Unist’ot’en members.

“Opposition is the easiest job in the world,” he said. “What is difficult is finding an answer when a First Nations mother has concerns about her child’s future.

“Politicians are quick to shout out sound bites and get into camera shots, but where are the cameras when another First Nations member takes their own life or when they pass away from highway/alcohol related deaths?”

Ross noted that recent court decisions have put B.C. aboriginal leaders in the best position they have ever had, with governments and development project proponents coming to them “with inclusion in mind” after decades of resource development that has passed them by.

You wouldn’t know it most days, but First Nations along both the Coastal GasLink and Pacific Trails gas pipelines have agreed to them.

More aboriginal leaders are getting tired of managing poverty, and misguided protesters.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

Just Posted

Pregnant Cariboo firefighter tries to save own house from blaze

Julia Flinton and Anthony Sellars both worked on the 2017 wildfires

Road report for Highway 20

Fog patches and slippery sections; Drive BC

Woman killed in head-on crash near Vanderhoof

RCMP say driver crossed the centre line and hit a loaded fuel tanker truck

Mining company prospecting for gold near Bella Coola

Gold discovered in alpine areas where glaciers are receding

‘Tripod’ delays access to Unist’ot’en camp

Social media rumours of cultural significance quashed, meaning police “exclusion zones” should end.

B.C. storm totals $37M in insured damages

The December storm wreaked havoc on B.C.’s south coast

Condo rental bans may be on way out with B.C. empty home tax

Many exemptions to tax, but annual declarations required

B.C. boy, aunt missing for three days

The pair are missing from Kamloops

Daredevil changes game plan to jump broken White Rock pier

Brooke Colby tells council daredevil event would help boost waterfront business

Liberal bows out of byelection after singling out Jagmeet Singh’s race

Karen Wang says she made comments online that referenced Singh’s cultural background

Truck hauling compressed gas for ‘virtual pipeline’ crashes on B.C. highway

Driver charged and highway closed for nine hours - containers did not rupture

Canucks rookie Elias Pettersson ‘feeling good’ after knee injury

Pettersson said he wasn’t feeling any pain during Wednesday’s skate

Kentucky canoe outfit borrows photo of Trudeau family to market business

They are in a red canoe, all clad in life jackets, and Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and Ella-Grace are waving

Most Read