The provincial government has had over 90 per cent success rate signing pipeline benefits agreements with First Nations groups along natural gas pipeline routes.
According to the province, making sure Aboriginal people are able to participate in LNG development through pipeline benefits agreements that provide direct financial benefits will help end poverty and improve quality of life for First Nations.
But are financial benefits really the answer to address issues of poverty and inequality on First Nations reserves?
Sure, financial help could definitely be one part of the solution. However, it seems to me that the issues faced by First Nations across the province are much more complex, and that the assumption that a sum of money could fix all these problems is too simplistic.
Too many questions still remain.
Once the money is given to First Nations groups, how will it be invested? Will it translate into jobs and long-term solutions for First Nations?
Is the province simply handing out money or is there also a plan to ensure that this money is invested to support First Nations in the long run?
According to Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief John Ridsdale, the provincial government has not been consulting properly with First Nations regarding LNG development.
He said that while the province has had over 90 per cent success rate signing deals with First Nations groups, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the majority of First Nations support LNG development.
A couple of weeks ago in Houston, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs dressed in full regalia and ceremoniously interrupted a meeting between TransCanada, B.C. government representatives and a group called the Wet’suwet’en Matrilineal Coalition.
The chiefs were there in part to stress that they did not believe the Matrilineal Coalition speaks for the Wet’suwet’en.
TransCanada and B.C. government representatives hurriedly left the meeting and only returned after the hereditary chiefs had left.
Although I don’t applaud their decision to leave the meeting, the hereditary chiefs were asked if they wanted to be on the meeting’s agenda, but they declined the offer.
When asked about this, Chief Ridsdale said some hereditary chiefs are tired of playing by the provinces’ rules.
“They [the province] want to talk about government to government relationships, and yet they go and start talking to smaller entities such as bands without coming to the true leadership of the nation [hereditary chiefs],” he said.
Last year, the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) said they were taking a careful approach to LNG in the region. According to the RDBN, LNG development has the potential to negatively impact local communities and place a burden on local infrastructure and services.
While the province says LNG has the potential to drive the B.C. economy for decades and improve the lives of First Nations, not everybody is buying that idea and these voices also need to be heard.