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LETTER: Breaking the polarization on Coastal Gaslink pipeline situation

BY DAVE JOHNSTON AND STEVE SIMONS

The North Matters

Bringing communities together. That’s the real work that needs to take place. Forgiveness and understanding are essential elements of the only way through a situation that has spiralled out of control.

We all want to see our neighbours, friends and family succeed but there is a social rift in northern British Columbia, perpetuated by misinformation and political maneuvers, that only serve to hold people and communities hostage.

Onlookers, near and far, don’t help when they chime in with their opinions; exploiting the situation to illustrate their own pro or anti positions on everything from climate change to independence. National and international mainstream media perpetuate the situation to sell controversy.

Those wearing the daily stresses are Wet’suwet’en community members being pulled in many directions. Collectively we all need to help create a reprieve from this damaging setting.

It’s time to stand back and consider how we got here. What started with professional foreign funded anti-development activists, many years ago, in a campaign to stop Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline from being developed, has turned into a polarized standoff between the remaining handful of people on the line, and those hoping for new opportunities via LNG and the Coastal Gas Link pipeline.

In the Gateway campaign, foreign funded activists executing the Tar Sands Strategy purposely sought out to influence First Nations communities to block the proposed development. The political aftermath, and negative public relations of that tactic, seeks to ensure politicians react by serving up the ‘stop everything’ end goals of activists.

Pages 7 and 8 of the Tar Sands Strategy highlighted the goal to “increase the perception of financial risks by investors,” increase “costs to industry associated with mitigation and legal fights” by targeting First Nations with legal potential to stop infrastructure, stating: “In Canada, First Nations have the power to challenge … on the grounds of Aboriginal rights and land claims.”

In their strategy design, foreign anti-resource activists worked through identifying and levering every avenue for stopping Canadian resource development. The term for professional activists using this approach has been coined eco-colonialism. At worst it’s a predatory tactic deployed by wily foreign politicos hellbent on interfering in Canadian resource industries, at best it’s simply immoral.  

It’s led to division, utterances of racism, hurt, broken families and lost opportunities. Shameful for us to let foreign activists do this to our neighbours.

To be fair, many communities did not know they were being taken advantage of. The Tar Sands Strategy started in 2008 but operated behind a dark curtain until 2012 when it was leaked.

And why wouldn’t some communities take up the opportunity to demand more from industry and government while getting some much-needed funding via the professional activist network. For decades many First Nation communities have been marginalized and kept from resource development opportunities.

Activists capitalized on the reality that when they provided cash and training they were filling a void created by us. This is our collective doing; but it’s also our collective responsibility to fix it.

Unfortunately, the Coastal Gas Link blockade is a hangover from the Gateway campaign and polarized and positional standoffs are what remain.

So, where do we go from here? How can we find peace and a renewed sense of community?

A good start is to recognize that our communities have been taken advantage of. Those that have been used by the foreign funded activist alliance can be forgiven. At the time this all started, none of us knew we were the subjects of a sophisticated mass anti-development campaign.

We need to get back to common ground and recognize we all want the same thing. Start with that end in mind: to peacefully provide for our families and communities well-being, honouring our culture, forming new bonds, looking after our environment and maybe while doing so we can teach our children a lesson in communities constructively coming together.

Let’s turn our attention to healing while driving out the divisive politics of professional activists.

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