First Nations Leader Says Environmentalists Are Perpetuating Poverty In Native Communities

REUTERS/Chris Helgren

David Krayden Ottawa Bureau Chief
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A First Nations leader in British Columbia says environmentalists are perpetuating Native poverty when they kill energy projects, the Financial Post reports.

Ellis Ross was the chief counselor for the Haisla Nation before he headed to the B.C. legislature as a provincial Liberal to represent his Kitimat constituency. He got into politics to fight for a natural gas project that he believed would bring prosperity to Natives.

Although Ross won his bid for election, a coalition government of socialists and members of the Green Party is now in power in B.C., and it is quickly moving to gut natural resource-based projects and overturn the pro-development policies of the previous government. It is opposing the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

“We were right on the cusp of First Nations in my region being able to look after themselves,” Ross told the Financial Post. “We were just starting to turn the tide on that opposition to everything. For the first time, since white contact, we were ready to take our place in B.C. and Canada. Instead, B.C. is not going to exist pretty soon in terms of investment. That is how worried I am.”

Although environmentalists always like to claim that First Nations groups are monolithic allies that stand with them against resource development, Ross says many Native leaders were looking to energy projects as a means of attaining economic self-sufficiency. He says they have signed agreements with companies that would have meant economic benefits and jobs for Native people who are often trapped in poverty.

That’s precisely where the green energy crusaders want to keep Natives, says Calvin Helin, an Indigenous leader who is also head of the Eagle Spirit project that opposes the federal Liberal government’s plans to ban oil tankers from sailing off Canada’s Pacific coast.

“These environmentalists are happy to make a park in somebody else’s backyard,” Helin told the Post. “Well, screw that. You are talking about people where there is 90 per cent unemployment.”

Ross described the mentality towards the energy industry both in B.C. and in the Trudeau government as one of “competing to get rid of industry.” He says left-wing activists have already destroyed the fur trade and the seal hunt and now they want to ban oil and natural gas exploration while ensuring natural resources never get to market because pipelines are stopped or put on hold indefinitely.

“The more sickening thing for me is that these people who oppose development in Canada truly believe they win when they defeat a project,” Ross told the Post, suggesting that if Canadians don’t do the work “the United States buys the Canadian product at a discount and sells it on the international market.”

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