Richmond, British Columbia – Chiefs and Métis leaders from across Canada have joined together in support of oil and natural gas development, and to ask the federal government to halt proposed legislation harmful to Indigenous interests, including a tanker ban on British Columbia’s North Coast (Bill C-48) and changes to the assessment of major development projects (Bill C-69), according to the National Coalition of Chiefs (NCC).
More than 50 First Nations Chiefs and Métis leaders gathered in Richmond, B.C. Nov. 5-6 to talk about resource development as a key to eliminating on-reserve poverty. These Chiefs, Indigenous entrepreneurs and other leaders are tired of Indigenous peoples being misrepresented by special-interest groups as being anti-development. Responsible resource development, including oil and natural gas development, is seen as vital to Indigenous communities’ economies, sustainability, and self-determination.
“As a past president of Métis Nation of B.C. we fully support responsible resource development and pipelines,” says NCC Executive Committee member and regional director of the Métis Nation of B.C., Bruce Dumont. “The Indigenous people here today look at resource development in a positive way. We need to think of the environment but the people also need to be a business partner.”
“The world needs oil and gas from Canada but now the federal government is blocking Indigenous communities from building sustainable opportunities to supply it – like we don’t control our own traditional territories,” says former Chief of the Nadleh Whut’en, Martin Louie.
Leaders with the NCC have signed two resolutions opposing Bill C-48 and Bill C-69. The resolutions describe both acts as having enormous and devastating effects on the ability of First Nations to cultivate economic development opportunities in their traditional territories. They call for both acts to be quashed as a violation of Indigenous rights.
“My message to the federal government is: stop slamming the door in our face,” says Lax Kw’alaams Chief John Helin. “You say you want reconciliation and to change the relationship with Indigenous peoples, but then you bring in a tanker ban that deprives us of our right to development without consulting us.”
Indigenous peoples are benefitting from the relationships they’ve formed with the Canadian oil and natural gas industry and no longer want to be used to advance the agendas of environmental non-governmental organizations.
It’s time the Government of Canada start listening and stop getting in the way of energy development under the guise of acting in the best interest of Indigenous peoples. Indigenous leaders will travel to Ottawa in the coming weeks to deliver a letter to Senators directly demanding Bill C-48 be stopped and major changes be made to Bill C-69.
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