(UR) Victoria, British Columbia — Since the elections last October, the Canadian Federal Government, led by the recently elected Liberal Party of Justin Trudeau, has continually reasserted its commitment to supporting LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) development in British Columbia. For the Liberal Premier of B.C., Christy Clark, this is good news. For environmentalists and First Nations, however, it is basically treachery.
Despite having been elected on what was mainly promoted as an environmental platform, this move isn’t more of the same heel-dragging on policy reform, it’s a step backwards. After having suffered 10 years of a government bent on gutting federal environmental protections, the decision of the new government to continue to offer tax breaks to the fossil fuel extraction industry is a clear indication of its neoliberal leanings and focus on immediate profits.
One of the more contested projects is a pipeline that would carry LNG through northern B.C. to waiting tankers on the North Pacific coast at the mouth of Skeena River. No matter the number of environmental assessments that warn against it, nor the very real effects a project of this magnitude would have on the salmon population, the provincial government promises that the plan will continue. No matter the opposition.
Since last year, members of the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation have been camping on Lelu Island, directly in the way of gas company Petronas’ construction. Through their peaceful blockade, the Lax Kw’alaams have physically been showing the Liberal environmental policy for what it is. And each day the blockade goes on, support for the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation grows.
Unfortunately, the government does not seem interested in listening to protesters, not even if they are working to protect a habitat that creates hundreds of jobs each year.
Taking the protest from the banks of the Skeena, members of the neighbouring Gitga’at First Nation, who were not included in previous negotiations concerning the pipeline, have brought the issue to court. By moving the argument out of the closed rooms of government, and off of Lelu Island, the Gitga’at are essentially opening another front.
Gene Sharp wrote that one of the most effective strategies to undermine a dictatorial system was to work its pillars of power. Despite the Liberal government continuing the tactics of its resource-hungry predecessor, the pillars are the same. Despite the very real intent and consequences from adding a court case to the mix, it will also allow First Nations, scientists, protesters, and environmental activists more time to continue their fight against the pipeline on the ground.
The following video explains the critical importance of the land in question to First Nations, the environment, and everyone in British Columbia:
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