Viewpoint: LNG battle now underway

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By JAN SLAKOV

It was bad enough learning that B.C. is providing big subsidies to LNG investors for a carbon-intensive industry that contaminates water.

Now the industry, with the help of the RCMP, is gearing up to violate Indigenous rights in a way that is totally unacceptable.

Although some Indian Act bands and corporations have signed agreements with the government of B.C. to allow pipeline construction and receive financial compensation, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary leadership, which has jurisdiction over 22,000 square kilometres of traditional territories, is strongly opposed to pipeline construction through their “yintah” or territory.

Given the genocidal conditions the Wet’suwet’en have endured since contact (disease epidemics, mass murder, racism, forcible removal of children to residential schools, starvation) it is impressive that the community has not retaliated in a violent way. Indeed, they went to court and won legal recognition of title to their yintah in the 1997 Delgamuukw/Gisdaywa vs. Queen case. Now, some leaders express concern over the B.C. treaty process, which they see as dysfunctional and facilitating “exploitative plans to never-before-seen rates.”

So, in 2009, the Unist’ot’en permaculture camp was established on part of their territory that stood in the path of proposed pipelines. A good number of people, including Gulf Islands residents, have travelled there to help with construction of a healing lodge and to learn.

Some may think it is unfair for a relatively small group of people to deny permission for a pipeline to be constructed on their land. Others see the actions of the Unist’ot’en as heroic — instead of signing on to some agreement in exchange for hundreds of thousands of government dollars, the Unist’ot’en and other clans insist on protecting land that they have stewarded for thousands of years. We know that protecting natural life systems is a key part of what is needed to prevent climate catastrophe. And learning from people who have such a deep connection to nature may well be another important task for non-Indigenous people who wish to pass on a livable planet for future generations.

Ecological concerns and violating Indigenous rights are not the only problems with the pipeline proposal. Let’s look at the record of some of the investors in this project: Shell, which paid $15.5-million to settle a legal action accusing it of complicity in Nigerian human rights violations, is a member of groups involved in climate disinformation. Petro-China, through its majority shareholder China National Petroleum Co., has been linked to abuses in Sudan and Burma. Both  commonsensecanadian.ca and thenahrwahl.ca have documented Petronas’ human rights violations and corruption.

If you believe in peace, order and good government, please learn more and help out as you are able. May 2019 be a year of respect for first peoples and the land and waters they defend.

The writer is a member of the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace, which supports these Unist’ot’en efforts.

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