Why Canada’s Oil & Gas Emissions Cap Will Hurt Indigenous Communities

why the oil and gas emissions cap will hurt first nations in Canada

First Nations in support of natural resource development to advance their communities are speaking out against the federal government’s oil and gas emissions cap.

Only a few short months ago, Ottawa announced yet another plan to “reduce emissions” from the oil and gas sector with a 42% reduction rate over the next eight years. This cap will not only bring new energy projects to a halt, but will be detrimental to Indigenous communities across Canada who are invested partners, workers, and soon-to-be owners in oil and gas projects.

Anti-Canadian development activists love this cap, with some even saying it doesn’t go far enough. If they had their way, Canadian oil and gas would be shut down and removed from global markets entirely, only to be replaced by products from less responsible and sustainable nations abroad, sure enough.

Imagine the economic consequences for Canada if that were true. Well, the same goes for First Nations. Limiting the development of new oil and gas projects by imposing an emissions cap will negatively affect Indigenous communities looking to develop the resources on their lands and benefit economically while generating own-source revenues.

As a First Nations person, I am holding my breath as there seems to be a massive divide between what Ottawa thinks is best for our communities and what is actually happening on the ground.

JP Gladu - Indigenous people across Canada want the economic opportunities presented by natural resource development

Recently, we saw the landmark deal made between Enbridge and 23 First Nation and Métis communities who gained an 11.57% ownership stake in several pipelines, the largest deal of its kind in North America. Not only was this agreement a solid example of economic reconciliation, but it also helps to put the wheels in motion to get our people on the ground and ensure resource projects are developed in the most environmentally responsible way - because that is who we are.

And then there is the emissions cap. We hear nonstop about the term 'reconciliation.' However, it is becoming more and more frustrating that reconciliation seems to be à la carte, where the right to say ‘yes’ to resource projects may apply to one First Nations community in a particular sector, but not to another looking to develop its resources in a different industry.

As Indigenous People, our right to self-determination is consistently left out. A great example is the fact that federal government consultation with our communities on the emissions cap is lacking.

Try visiting a First Nation community that relies on natural resources for revenues. You'll quickly realize that equal access to opportunity helps lift our people out of poverty while ensuring we have a seat at the table to make sure it is done with our own applied ways of knowing. We are the long-term stewards of our land; we go to great lengths to ensure we take care of it properly, and it is a responsibility we don’t take lightly.

More recently in Northern Saskatchewan, we saw a new exploration benefit agreement signed between Denison Mines and our Far North First Nations in the Athabasca region. Agreements such as this are all about working together i.e. continuing to develop projects while ensuring regulatory approvals and respecting Indigenous rights.

Much like oil and gas projects in Alberta and British Columbia, Indigenous People in Saskatchewan have also benefitted immensely from jobs in these northern uranium mines.

Chris Sankey - People are being misled about Indigenous support for natural resource projects in Canada

We need to put faith in our Indigenous communities to do what is right for this land we call home - for the resources that are ours. We continue to make major investments to create opportunities and improve the socioeconomic conditions in our communities, so why would the government want to “cap” that progress?

I am tired of hearing people - especially Hollywood celebrities who know nothing about the adversity we face in our communities every day - say things like “Indigenous people don’t want this pipeline” or “it’s not what’s best for them.”

When anyone speaks for us, they put us into a monolithic category as if we are all the same. They also completely disregard our right to self-determination.

We want to make the decisions behind resource development on our lands. That is why the implementation of this oil and gas emissions cap in Canada will be detrimental to First Nations, and frankly, the lack of consultation with these affected communities is disappointing.

Those who are applauding this emissions cap should understand who is affected by it. Think of the new partnerships you are hearing about in the news. Think of the parents who work hard to provide their children and family with a life they never had. Think about those of us who want nothing more than to take care of our land while sharing in the wealth of resources that Mother Earth gave us.

Finally, think about our Indigenous communities, the opportunities that will come from these investments, and how this emissions cap will damper them - if not completely.

Who picks up the pieces for us who are pro-resource development when environmental protestors or government policies contribute to blocking another project that would have benefitted Indigenous communities and help lift our people out of abject poverty?

It’s us, the First Nations, who are left with no more jobs or economic opportunities than we started out with. In the spirit of economic reconciliation and the right to self-determination, that’s just not okay.

About the Author

Jennifer Laewetz - Indigenous Resource Network

Jennifer is a policy analyst and communications consultant from Northern Saskatchewan. As a member of Treaty 4, she obtained an undergraduate degree in Political Studies from the University of Saskatchewan as well as a proficiency in Indigenous Governance. She is currently a Graduate and Post Doctoral Studies student at the University of Saskatchewan, working in federal politics for five years and has many years of additional experience in the private sector. Jennifer is a huge advocate for self-determination and Indigenous policy across Canada.


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