I am the elected chief councillor of the Haisla Nation, and as a First Nations leader in my community I dedicate myself to providing opportunities that benefit my people.
I want First Nations members to have the same quality of life that every other person in Canada has. I want B.C.’s First Nations to be heard and be included in the discussions that impact our territories. I want us and other First Nations to achieve their independence in order to properly and effectively care for the future of our people.
Haisla, and the other 19 elected bands across the Coastal GasLink pipeline route, have concluded that this project meets the requirements that we have as First Nations. Our support of natural gas pipelines is not imagined and, in fact, this has been a historic achievement to see this level of commitment from so many nations.
First Nations have been left out of resource development for too long, and it would be easy to say no to projects, but now we are involved, we have been consulted and will ensure there are benefits to all First Nations involved in these projects. We do have a share, and we will have our say on how these projects are developed.
The Haisla said yes to these projects because we have concluded that they will be built responsibly for our environment and will allow our people to flourish.
We said yes to these projects because we know they will provide employment, not only for ourselves but for the north.
We said yes to LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink because the proponents and the provincial government have respected our expertise when it comes to our territory and our culture.
Haisla are not quick to offer endorsements for any projects when it comes to our territory. We firmly opposed the Northern Gateway bitumen pipeline proposal, which did not meet our conditions or our standards.
But we’re not talking about oil or bitumen. Coastal GasLink is natural gas, and it should not be confused. A natural gas pipeline will always be a natural gas pipeline.
I do acknowledge there is conflict between some hereditary chiefs and the elected council of the Wet’suwet’en regarding Coastal GasLink. I empathize with their situation, as Haisla have gone through similar issues in our past. But I urge outside interests to leave this to Wet’suwet’en to resolve on their own.
Given the large First Nations support with Coastal GasLink, I’m disappointed that the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs is choosing to stoke the flames of conflict regarding the Wet’suwet’en issue rather than stand in support of the 20 First Nations that have signed agreements for the pipeline.
In fact, whether it’s the UBCIC or the Assembly of First Nations or the First Nations Summit, these groups seem content to rush to offer their perspective on what is happening within the Wet’suwet’en but have remained silent on all of the First Nations that are benefiting in real terms from these projects.
Let’s move beyond the sensationalism and simply get to work for the betterment of our people, our First Nations and the province.
I’m tired of managing poverty. I’m tired of First Nations communities dealing with issues such as suicide, low employment or educational opportunities.
We’re at a time when First Nations can take control of their future. If this opportunity is lost, it doesn’t come back. Therefore we can’t lose this opportunity for our people and for our children. LNG matters for us and that is why we stand up for it.
Crystal Smith is chief councillor of the Haisla Nation council.