It’s been a long battle with no immediate end in sight for First Nations groups, environmentalists and concerned British Columbians fighting proposals to develop oil and gas infrastructure across the province.
But one journalist says the political turmoil has resulted in some surprisingly optimistic partnerships between First Nations groups and their non-Aboriginal counterparts in B.C..
“I think that’s actually one of the positive things that has come out of this whole brouhaha,” said the Squamish-based Arno Kopecky, “that all of these pipeline wars we’re in today – whether it’s Kinder Morgan, whether it’s Keystone XL, whether it’s Northern Gateway – have brought a number of overdue alliances together.”
The optimistic message was met with applause on Saturday, March 8 from the more than 50 attendees from the Langley community – of various ethnic backgrounds – who gathered at Walnut Grove Secondary for the Pipe-Up Community forum on the Kinder Morgan pipeline project.
“These corporations, they don’t care what colour of skin you are, they don’t care what your ethnicity is,” Kopecky told the audience. “We’re all in this together.”
Kopecky recently released his second book, The Oil Man and the Sea, which chronicles his three-month sailing journey into the Great Bear Forest region and the proposed oil tanker routes for the recently approved Enbridge Northern Gateway project.
He said he was struck by the First People he met who fought for a say in the decision, even though they (correctly) expected their words to fall on deaf ears.
He said with the current Canadian climate of Truth and Reconciliation, alongside a growing environmental consciousness, it’s no surprise First Nations are becoming more self empowered at the same time the oil and gas industry is facing increased scrutiny.
“In the last few years there's been a lot of actually important victories and precedents being set with aboriginal law, and certainly in the case of Northern Gateway, the principle hope now is that First Nations will be able to stop this because of treaty rights,” Kopecky said.
“That's not to say that we should just sit back and just let First Nations take care of this,” he added, cautioning that there is a long road ahead in the effort to strengthen empowerment among Indigenous groups.
However, he still sees potential for the pipeline conflict to increase First Nations and non-Aboriginal concerned citizen partnerships across the country.
"Just looking around this room I see a lot of [different] people coming together and showing pride in the land.”
Kinder Morgan plans to hold an open house Wednesday in Langley to get feedback on the pipeline route. See separate story.