Letter to the editor
The standoff between the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and the provincial government over the Coastal Gaslink pipeline highlights unresolved issues of aboriginal right and title and the way our governments are responding to the climate emergency.
Two Wet’suwet’en Chiefs have launched a claim against Ottawa, stating that the federal government has a constitutional obligation to adhere to its emissions targets under the Paris Agreement, and that it is unconstitutional to allow projects such as the liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipeline and terminal to be built. Emissions from fracking, liquefying and shipping natural gas are estimated to be 10 million tonnes, or one quarter of B.C.’s entire greenhouse gas budget for 2030, and two-thirds of 2050 emissions target. This calculation doesn’t include downstream emissions when the gas is burned.
The chiefs are right: intensifying the fracking and liquefaction of natural gas is inconsistent with BC’s and Canada’s commitment to climate action. Rather than curtailing emissions, the approach of the provincial and federal governments seems to be to get as much of Canada’s hydrocarbon resources to market as quickly as possible before being forced to transition to green energy. These are not the actions of governments that take the climate crisis seriously.
Furthermore, the fracked gas industry, which feeds the LNG industry, has potentially serious health implications.
Although the Supreme Court of Canada in the 1997 Delgamuukw decision, confirmed that aboriginal title does exist in British Columbia, the B.C. and federal governments have let two decades slip by without negotiating the terms of aboriginal title. The permit and consultation process that the government imposes on the industry, and which it has followed, was not developed in consultation with First Nations or negotiated with reference to aboriginal rights and title, therefore, there is reason to question the legitimacy of the whole process.
Failure to take meaningful action on climate change and failure to negotiate the terms of aboriginal title, have now become intertwined in such a way that it seems impossible to address one without addressing the other. Opponents have formed a strong coalition to support the Hereditary Chiefs because they see the injustice of inaction. The current stand-off as well as future pipeline and resource projects will face similar opposition until our governments accept their responsibility to meet scientifically defensible GHG emissions targets and to negotiate a new relationship with First Nations.
Mike Healey, vice-chair, First Things First Okanagan