It’s another year, and who would of thought that amid skyrocketing energy prices and widespread supply shortages, Hollywood celebrities would continue trying to use their influence to shut down Canadian pipelines.
Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised. But amid a new global discussion concerned with energy security and sources of supply, I thought there was a morsel of hope that these opponents would step back and consider what role Canada could play in providing that security to the world.
After all, some of them are pretty good actors and actresses, A-list even, who are amongst some of the most famous in Hollywood. I give them credit for their acting skills and talent. But when it comes to continuing to oppose Canadian energy projects, they are not helping anyone - especially Indigenous communities who support these projects and benefit from them.
Watching Melina Loubacan-Massimo (the first inaugural Indigenous David Suzuki fellow) and several American celebrities try to convince Canadians that the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline is imposing on Wet'suwet'en territory and we should be pressuring domestic banks to stop financing these energy projects is such a farce.
These are the same celebrities who haven’t said a word about the several liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects now underway in the U.S., nor have they said anything about those recently completed facilities that helped our neighbour become the world’s largest LNG exporter earlier this year.
Celebrities Are Not "Experts"
During the pandemic, I spent a lot of time indoors learning new things about energy, healthcare, politics, finance, religion, do-it-yourself tips, entertainment, and so on and so forth. And let me tell you, there are a ton of incredibly intelligent people out there who haven’t made celebrity status, but are as equally or more talented than movie stars in their own respective ways.
Many of these people who I learned from are experts in their own fields ranging from energy and mining to healthcare and entertainment. Rarely did they ever venture outside of their area of expertise to unabashedly attack something they didn’t have an intimate understanding and in-depth knowledge of.
But it seems that the Hollywood elite just can’t stay in their own lane.
My respect goes to the banks that continue to finance these energy projects in Canada, because despite what Mark Ruffalo likes to think and say, Coastal GasLink’s state of affairs with Indigenous Peoples is quite the opposite.
We are all entitled to our opinions. But when celebrities and other elites think what they have to say is more important than what the democratically elected councils of all 20 First Nations along CGL’s route do, they need a reality check.
CGL & Indigenous Benefits
Resource workers - including many Indigenous and non-Indigenous People who live and work in remote areas of Canada - are trying to feed their families and pay their bills. For many Indigenous communities in particular, there is widespread excitement over the once-in-a-lifetime economic opportunities offered by resource projects like CGL, which will improve their livelihood and lift up their communities out of abject poverty.
We’re talking about opportunities for long-term employment, training, skills or higher education, which don’t come about often in most Indigenous communities.
When celebrities are prompted by anti-Canadian oil and gas activists to oppose Canadian resource projects, all they are doing is inflicting trauma and hardship on Indigenous families who are looking to break the systemic colonization from government that holds them down. Oil and gas pipeline development gives Indigenous Peoples the chance to gain economic independence and elevate themselves through long-term employment while simultaneously improving socio-economic conditions within their communities.
CGL opponents have created a narrative that has most people confused. Members of the Wet'suwet'en territory elected their Chiefs, and although some of the Hereditary Chiefs don’t like the decisions of the Elected Chiefs, the democratic process they follow should be respected as it represents their community at large. It seems this is a colonial practice, but then so is living off of government handouts.
Celebrities are here to entertain us, or in other words, they are experts in the field of entertainment. And they do have a right like all of us to an opinion. But in the case of CGL, they don’t have their facts straight.
Elites like Mark Ruffalo and Leonardo DiCaprio should stay in their own lane and realize that most people can make their own decisions.
Support Pro-Resource Indigenous Peoples
Recent polls suggest a majority of Canadians and Indigenous Peoples alike support Canadian energy projects.
Today, there are a number of Indigenous groups looking to partner with natural resource companies and gain equity ownership in pipelines like CGL and the Trans Mountain Expansion.
Perhaps these talented celebrities should recognize those facts and focus on their own backyard first before focussing on Canadian resource development.
After all, California is where you’ll find Hollywood, and they are much more credentialled to stick their nose into the affairs of the rich and famous than they are into those of Indigenous communities who are pro-resource development in Canada.
About the Author
Estella Petersen is a heavy machinery operator in the oil sands out of Fort McMurray. Estella is from the Cowessess Reserve and is passionate about Canada and supporting Canadian natural resources.
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Canadian oil and gas seems to always be in the spotlight a lot. Whether it’s international, across the southern border or in our own country, we like to talk about what should happen to the oil and gas industry. But something we don’t always discuss is how many Indigenous Peo...
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