Q&A: Pipeline Protests & Indigenous Peoples in Canada

indigenous peoples and pipeline protests in Canada - question and answers

Have you realized yet that pipeline protesters misrepresent Indigenous supporters of natural resource projects? If not, you’ll want to continue reading on, because a majority of Indigenous Peoples in Canada support the responsible development of natural resources, myself included.

As an Indigenous resource worker, I find it incredibly frustrating that all these protestors are doing is making it harder for my people to get involved with natural resource projects. Efforts by pipeline opponents in Canada to blockade intersections, railways and ports are affecting business for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples, and it’s just not right.

How long will these protesters be allowed to do what they are doing? For example, they may delay one of your family members from getting to work on time, which is a hassle, but the long-term effects they can have on economic development opportunities for rural Indigenous communities is particularly alarming. Also see:

Q: What is economic reconciliation?

most Indigenous peoples in Canada support natural resource development

A: There is no doubt that Indigenous Peoples in Canada have experienced many traumas in the past, contributing to the harsh conditions that many of us face when living on reserves with little to no income and dependence on government money for income. 

But what many protestors in Canada fail to recognize is that involvement with new natural resources projects provides many First Nations with the economic means to regain their culture and identity. For example, the benefit agreements between Coastal GasLink (CGL) and the 20 First Nations bands along the project’s proposed route stand to benefit Indigenous families and communities by supporting things such as infrastructure projects, social programs and education.

As a result, today we have a resurgence of Indigenous empowerment where Indigenous people can get educated and help their families and communities through employment. This is part of economic reconciliation. Indigenous Peoples need the financial means to regain their cultural identity, care for their elders and empower their youth through education and jobs while having little reliance on the Canadian government to do so.

Q: Who are the protesters supporting?

Coastal GasLink interactions with Indigenous communities

A: We’ve seen the protests all over social media against the CGL pipeline in northern British Columbia. These are small, but vocal groups gaining attention with the help of well-funded, non-governmental and environmental organizations. Often, these protestors bully anyone who tries to support resource development in these remote communities, including Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who are just looking for a way to put food on the table for their families.

It doesn’t take much to realize that pipeline opponents recruiting new “warriors” to support their cause are in it to promote their own agenda: to shut down what seems like all natural resource projects under development in Canada.

The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, for example, have a following who hold protests in various locations across Canada without considering that these actions are creating a greater divide between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people across the country.

Q: When did this become an international conflict?

Coastal GasLink contracts awarded to Indigenous and local businesses

A: Maybe it’s just a coincidence that the pipeline protests ramped up after the Canadian border reopened, but I’d beg to differ.

A quick google search shows you that several American activist groups are recruiting new volunteers to help fight against projects in Canada like Coastal GasLink. They are also asking for donations, which to date total hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars from what these websites say.

There is something bigger here at play than just Hereditary Chiefs versus Elected Chiefs. Put the pieces together, and it seems that these protestors are professionally organized and supported by large, well-funded environmental NGOs against any resource development in Canada.

Meanwhile, the development of liquefied natural gas industry in the U.S. is reaching all time highs.

Q: How long will the protests continue?

Coastal GasLink property taxes generated for rural BC communities

A: As long as professionally paid protestors are funded, they will continue to do their job. This is a tragedy for the majority of Indigenous Peoples in Canada who support the responsible development of natural resources and look to these projects as a way out of living in abject poverty.

Strong and respectful relationships form when putting together partnerships between Indigenous communities and the resource industry. On the flip side, protesters weaken and destroy the potential these relationships have to change Indigenous communities’ socio-economic situation for the better.

Is the goal of the protester to keep Indigenous people reliant on government handouts? Because that seems to be the outcome.

Indigenous supporters of natural resource development in Canada

Wet'suwet'en Supporters of Coastal GasLink

Let’s not allow a small minority to speak for all Indigenous people in Canada. There are many of us who strongly support Canadian natural resource development, for ourselves, our families, our communities and Canada as a whole.

Back to Indigenous Peoples & Natural Resources in Canada.

About the Author

Estella Petersen - Heavy Equipment Operator & Indigenous Woman in the Oil Sands

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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