Reconciliation, at the heart of new energy projects
Economic reconciliation allows many Indigenous communities to receive part of the benefits of energy projects located on their territories.
The Cedar LNG liquefied natural gas project, approved by Victoria and Ottawa this week, is the first in Canada to be led by a First Nation. This new partnership looks set to become a model for future BC energy projects.
When BC Premier David Eby announced the environmental green light given by the province to the Cedar LNG gas terminal construction project in Kitimat, Haisla Nation Chief Councilor Crystal Smith had tears in her eyes.
Prime Minister David Eby and Minister of Environment George Heyman surround Haisla Nation Chief Councilor Crystal Smith.
For her, it was not just a historic day, but a real change in the course of history for the Haisla First Nation, since until now, Aboriginal people have been left behind in the world. economic development in their own territory, she says.
You don't have to go far to find examples of energy projects that First Nations were fiercely opposed to, according to Mark Jaccard, a professor in the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University. During the last phase of energy projects in Canada, First Nations were seen as an obstacle, he explains.
“First Nations used to say, 'Wait a minute, this is our land!'
— Mark Jaccard, Professor in the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University
Between 2004 and 2016, Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline project met with strong opposition, including from First Nations in British Columbia and Alberta, who felt they had not been sufficiently consulted. The outcry eventually led to the abandonment of this nearly $8 billion project.
Protesters against the Northern Gateway pipeline march through Vancouver on June 17, 2014.
According to Adam Pankratz, professor of economics at the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia, there were problems with what Enbridge had done. They haven't done their job as well as Cedar LNG or TransMountain. He believes that there is now a recognition that if we do not have the commitment and support of First Nations, there is no chance that these projects will be accepted. .
In June 2022, a proposed gold and silver mine at Eskay Creek in northern British Columbia became the first to receive environmental permits issued by a First Nation. The agreement between the Tahltan Nation and Vancouver-based Skeena Resources respects the spirit of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was adopted by British Columbia in 2019.< /p>
First Nations like the Haisla or the Tahltan understand very well that they have enormous resources on their territories that can bring a lot of wealth and economic prosperity to their people, explains Adam Pankratz.
The involvement of First Nations in energy projects makes the task of environmentalists more complex, according to Mark Jaccard. Now we have this interesting phase where it becomes more and more difficult, even for environmentalists. to say, “Don't do this project because the First Nations don't want it,” he explains.
So you have project managers who now understand the need to involve Aboriginal people in these projects. Whether these are environmentally friendly projects or not remains to be seen.
This week, when the Cedar LNG project was approved, the David Suzuki Foundation first recalled that it welcomes with great enthusiasm reconciliation with First Nations and their right to have economic activity in their territory, in the words of senior climate policy adviser Tom Green.
The foundation said this before adding its criticism of the project: But shale gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG), all the energy it takes and all the emissions it causes, it's not a project that's going to help the economy. long-term humanity.
The David Suzuki Foundation congratulated the First Nations reconciliation initiative that the Cedar LNG project represents before launching its criticism of the pipeline.
Sierra Club BC Climate Campaigner Jens Wieting agrees: I fear that any fossil fuel project that a community invests in will call it a contribution to the reconciliation could end tragically.
First Nations are also divided over energy projects. Some Wet'suwet'en are still opposed to the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which will supply the Cedar LNG gas terminal, among other things.
According to Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Aboriginal Chiefs, the expansion of the LNG industry and hydraulic fracturing approved this week is terrifying when you think about the how it will affect lands and waters in this province, as well as around the world.