On Friday, 20th October, a totem pole carved by Tsimshian artist Phil Gray of a wolf and an orca fin was ceremoniously erected on Lelu Island British Columbia to commemorate the victory of the resistance against the PETRONAS/ provincial government of British Columbia/ Federal government of Canada plans for a massive LNG terminal. According to Ian Gill in his article in the Tyee Gwishawaal Ken Lawson, a house leader of the Gitwilgyoots tribe said modestly, “It’s a small pole, but the wolf is here,” Ken Lawson jointly claims stewardship rights and responsibilities on Lelu Island with Simoyget Yahaan, Don Wesley for the Tsimshian First Nation. In the course of the proceedings, Don Wesley, who publically led the resistance to protect the island and the Skeena watershed, was presented with a copper shield by Guujaaw, the leader of the Haida Nation to acknowledge his resistance.
According to the Nikkei Asian Review, Progress Energy, a subsidiary of Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional (PETRONAS) has just put its oil and gas assets in Deep Basin, Alberta up for sale. Given this upcoming sale and also the cancellation of their massive Pacific Northwest LNG project on Lelu island, British Columbia, it appears that Progress Energy and PETRONAS will be concentrating their future Canadian investments and activities in North Montney, British Columbia. Progress Energy claims that it is the largest holder of contiguous areas of land in Montney and that over 13,000 drilling locations have been identified of which about 215 wells have been drilled.
Former BC Premier Christie Clark ran a political fundraising regime that was described as “the wild west of Canadian political cash” in a New York Times headline. While there may not have been any illegality about financial contributions under this regime its appropriateness and suitability in a genuine and people oriented democracy is clearly in doubt. Also, its implications for corporate influence over the economic affairs of the province are worth reviewing as the Liberals, now in opposition, have joined the new NDP/Green government in the push for change. There are no limits on political donations in B.C. and it is reported in the Globe and Mail that their review of public records found dozens of paid lobbyists actually make large contributions in their own names and not, more transparently, in the names of those of the interests they represent.
One such donor is Byng Giraud, the top in-house lobbyist for and Vice President of Woodfibre LNG. He has apparently given the B.C. Liberals $47,149 in 20 payments, under his own name. Another Woodfibre LNG manager, Marian Ngo, seems to have given the party $28,000, in 14 donations. The Globe and Mail cites Mr Giraud as saying that donating under one’s own name “is common practice,” as the fund-raiser ticket-purchase forms on the Liberal party’s website often had no field to put the company name. The point here is that whatever the ethical complexion of the corporate investor, it the up to our provincial government to set the tone for doing business here, and in no way should provincial economic decision making be as tinged by the colour of money as it appears to have been of late. The new NDP/Green government of British Columbia must deliver on their campaign promises about changing the law in this regard.
While the Pacific Northwest LNG logo belies its PETRONAS connections, the more established Progress Energy logo proudly wears the PETRONAS green. In his announcement on the termination of the Lelu Island development, Datuk Anuar Taib
who is Executive Vice-President & Chief Executive Officer of Upstream PETRONAS, Chairman of Pacific NorthWest LNG and Chairman of Progress Energy made it clear how deeply established in and committed to Canadian natural resource development this Malaysian crown corporation really is – “Over the years, Progress Energy and its North Montney joint venture partners have developed a reserves and contingent resource of around 52 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves and resource in the North Montney assets. … we are positioning Progress Energy to be one of the top natural gas exporters in North America. That’s why we are moving our Unconventional Centre of Excellence from Kuala Lumpur to Calgary. The centre, which will house a network of technical experts with similar expertise, responsibilities and interests, will deliver operational innovations for PETRONAS worldwide unconventional gas plays with its core in Calgary.” Once again I find myself swelling with Malaysian Pride and, at the same time, shrinking fearfully at the realization that what we are talking about a monumental fracking operation in Canadian earth!
Simogyet Malii, the chief negotiator for the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs, makes a powerful assertion that the recent cultural appropriation debate belies a deeper arrogation. First Peoples cultural forms are expressions of their relationship to their lands and waters and are inseparable from their traditional laws. He draws our attention to the fact that the significant ‘appropriation’ “isn’t happening in art galleries or on the pages of high-minded magazines. This is happening on our lands and in the courts and legislatures, and it has to stop.”
A case in point is how the Lax Kw’alaams Band Council is seeking to deny or, to extend the analogy, ‘appropriate’ the ancestral authority of hereditary chief Simogyet Yahaan, of the Gitwilgyoots in connection with and PETRONAS/ Pacific NorthWest LNG project on Lelu island. The Band Council has launched a legal challenge to Yahaan’s locus standi to repersent his tribe and protect its territory. Simogyet Malii notes that this assertion by the Council is unprecedented and that, “It challenges the respect for aboriginal law and authority, and undermines any possible reconciliation between Canada and aboriginal peoples.”
There is clear preceedant, in Federal Court of Appeal decions, that the Crown is obliged to properly consult First Nations in connection development projects on uceded lands under their jurisdiction and the technical question at stake here is quite simply, who should the Crown rightly consult – ancestral hereditary chiefs or the Band Council that derives its authority from colonial legislation. The Gitwilgyoots and the Gitanyow who believe they too have a right to be consulted do to impacts of this project on the Salmon ecology and consequently on their economy has brought a request for Jucial review in this matter to the Federal Court in Vancouver . Yahaan has said , “The … council deemed they could go out and take tribal territory and use it at their own discretion for oil and gas. Their only jurisdiction is on reserves. Outside that jurisdiction belongs to the tribes.”
The Band Council’s apolication to the courts to have Yahaan declared persona non grata in this manner is, rightly or wrongly, an attempt to circumvent this important questoin of jurisdiction and right adewuate consultation. Simogyet Malii’s explication of the depths of ‘cultural’ apprioriation seems briliant to me but it must be an obvious fact to the First Peoples with whom reconciliation is acknowledged in the formalities of state, but the continued aporopriation and exoloitation of whose sacred and material possesions is ongoing.