Indigenous Energy Worker Responds to Fossil Fuel Ad. Ban Bill C-372

Why Bill C372 does not help Indigenous communities in Canada

Regarding the recent announcement of Bill C-372, an ill-conceived private members’ bill that aims to ban what is described as “misleading” fossil fuel advertising. Listening to the Member of Parliament speak about their bill was a challenge, as it was very degrading to Indigenous people who support all facets of the oil and natural gas sector.

Land and Environment

Most Indigenous people have a close connection to the land and the environment. In the past, natural resource companies didn’t consult and involve Indigenous people in energy projects like they do today. Don’t get me wrong; there is still room for improvement, but the reality is that today, Indigenous people are more involved with responsible natural resource development than ever before in Canadian history and will continue to be increasingly involved in every project that is on Indigenous lands.

As consultations occur for new projects, strict environmental priorities are brought forward by Indigenous communities. Land and the environment are essential to Indigenous people as biodiversity maintains the cultural lifestyle many community members still partake in. Hunting and gathering is not a thing of the past; as much as many city dwellers may romanticize this notion, the reality is it's a way of survival for many Indigenous communities.

Do-Gooders and Indian Act

Interference from initiatives like Bill C-372 or railway blockades, for example, may come from people with good intentions. However, in many instances, those intentions are misplaced and end up doing more harm to Indigenous peoples than good. Such interference slows down projects, wastes valuable time, and frightens investors who want to see Indigenous people prosper while adding to their own returns.

Interference from anti-Canadian resource activists also sets a bigger wedge in the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. It seems every time First Nations get ahead there’s another hurdle to jump. The government says they want to work toward economic reconciliation with Indigenous people. I say prove it.

So then, why all the support from non-governmental organizations and activists for legislation brought forth by Members of Parliament whose actions are in line with the antiquated Indian Act?

Moving Forward

Most Indigenous people today want to move forward. Opportunities from natural resource projects, including fossil fuels (it's not a bad word), promote employment, support education, and generate revenues that help First Nations uplift their communities out of poverty and better their overall socio-economic standing.

Indigenous culture is strengthened through the support of Indigenous people who are employed in the energy sector, along with healthcare, mental health, language and tradition. Being able to see and read an advertisement regarding fossil fuel projects may encourage Indigenous youth to have hope, to better their current lifestyle, to not do crime or get involved in drugs, and maybe to encourage an Indigenous person to not take their own life because of financial despair. Misinformation is always circulated by anti-oil and natural gas groups, whether that’s from out of country or from within. But, of course, they don’t say anything about foreign oil coming into Canada.

I, for one, will not be quiet on this outrageous bill looking to illegalize the path toward economic reconciliation with Indigenous communities in Canada. Many First Nations, myself included, work in oil and gas and speak loud and proudly about the benefits it provides us and our communities.

We can speak for ourselves. If we choose to state facts about oil and natural gas, like the obvious economic benefits of gainful employment and own-source revenues that help us move away from government dependency, that is something to be encouraged, not silenced. I am hopeful they will not advance this bill, thus stifling Indigenous people.

About the Author

Indigenous oil sands worker estella petersen

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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