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LITTLEJOHN: How to get First Nations onside for independence

We have a strong case to make that Ottawa’s rule is unfair to Westerners and Alberta First Nations alike.

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If the West or Alberta breaks from Ottawa, would its First Nations choose the old nation, or the new? First Nations harbor no great love for Ottawa, but several Western First Nations leaders have come out against independence. In November 2019, Treaty 8 issued a press release stating: “As chiefs, with our united voices and on behalf of our 22 member nations — with clear conscience — declare we are strongly opposed to the idea of separation from Canada.”

At the Value of Alberta Conference in Calgary, Danielle Smith posed the question: “If Alberta held a referendum on independence and the vote came back ‘yes,’ would the province look like Swiss cheese with various First Nations rejecting independence?” Grand Chief of Treaty 8, Jim Boucher, nodded and Grand Chief of Treaty 6, Billy Morin, stated that it would result in: “Wet’suwet’en, times 100.” In short, without First Nations buy in, Western independence is dead in the water.  

At first glance, this is somewhat surprising given the federal government’s historically backward relationship with First Nations. As Stephen Buffalo, head of the Indian Resource Council, expressed in a Financial Post column:

“The Liberal government cancelled the Northern Gateway Pipeline without consulting properly with indigenous peoples in the region. The government unilaterally imposed a ban on tankers along the West Coast, again without discussing the economy-destroying impact of this decision on Indigenous peoples. The same is true of the moratorium on oil and gas exploration in Arctic waters. And Ottawa’s management of the Trans Mountain Pipeline again has privileged the views of environmental groups much more than oil- and gas-producing nations, putting at risk a project that had the potential to bring great benefits to our communities.” 

Roy Fox, Chief of the Kainaiwa, added: “There are 26 oil-producing First Nations in Western Canada. The current economic situation in Alberta has cost the families of oil and gas producing nations several thousands of dollars a year.”

Policies that are bad for the West are bad for Western First Nations. Additionally, if the First Nations seeking to purchase the Trans Mountain Pipeline are successful, their frustrations with Ottawa are likely to grow.

But given the history of broken promises and paternalistic policies, no one can blame First Nations for having doubts about Western independence. The treaties are far from perfect, but they have legal status and years of Supreme Court decisions offering a degree of certainty. To walk away with only a hope and a prayer for something better would be foolhardy. 

Those supporting independence will have to engage in consulting and negotiating with all 45 First Nations in three treaty regions in Alberta, the 70 First Nations across seven treaty areas in Saskatchewan, as well as Métis communities. It would require time and effort, but they have a right to be heard, and this could be a grand opportunity both for First Nations and all Westerners. A new relationship built on mutual respect, trust, and a partnership working together to confront modern challenges would be beneficial for all. 

Here are a few ideas that might entice more enthusiasm from First Nations for independence.  At a minimum, there should be an acknowledgement of the right to self-government and respect for the treaties. 

  1. Land.  Alberta is 661,848 sq.-kms – larger than central Europe – with approximately 8,127 sq.-kms of reserve land. Some – if not all – First Nations would be interested in increasing the size of their lands. Alberta is a big place and holds many Crown lands in reserve that could be shared with First Nations. 
  2. Resource revenue or royalty sharing.  Many First Nations are already deeply involved with oil and gas companies. The Fort McKay First Nation and Mikisew Cree First Nation own a 49 per cent equity interest in the Suncor East Tank Farm. A group of First Nations are seeking to purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline from the federal government. 

    Sharing royalties more widely makes sense as all First Nations are looking for ways to reduce poverty and help their people. Royalty sharing would be a concrete step towards reconciliation, reducing poverty and integrating into the broader economy of the West. 
  3. Seats in a Western Parliament. For over 150 years the Maori in New Zealand have had designated seats in their parliament to ensure representation. Maori are able to register to vote in regular constituencies, or the Maori seats. Despite the fact that Alberta First Nations have self-government, they too are affected by laws passed elsewhere. Dedicated seats in the legislature would lead to more collaboration and respect.

The idea of holding a referendum on independence without first engaging in dialogue with First Nations would be counterproductive. But we have a strong case to make that Ottawa’s rule is unfair to Westerners and Alberta First Nations alike. Independence could be an opportunity for a substantively better partnership between First Nations and other Westerners, but it would require time and work. For good or for ill, all Westerners are in this together.

Tessa Littlejohn is a columnist for the Western Standard

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1 Comment

  1. Weyland Yutani

    February 4, 2020 at 7:29 am

    Very interesting: this contains the seeds of solutions to this problem.

    Every person I know, including natives, are fed up with the current apartheid system we have.

    Anything would be better.

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Energy

VENKATACHALAM & KAPLAN: Oil and gas production is essential to BC’s economy

Here’s another slice of statistical bread to consider: In 2017 the BC oil and gas industry purchased $5.6 billion worth of goods and services from other sectors.

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Guest column by Ven Venkatachalam and Lennie Kaplan of the Canadian Energy Centre

British Columbia has been producing oil and natural gas since 1952. In fact, as of 2018, BC produced 32% of Canada’s natural gas production and 2% of Canada’s conventional daily oil production. British Columbia collects royalties from oil and gas development, supporting the economic prosperity in the province.

Want to know how important the oil and natural gas industry is to the BC economy? Using customized Statistic Canada data from 2017 (the latest year available for this comparison), it turns out oil and gas in BC  generated about $18 billion in outputs, consisting primarily of the value of goods and services produced, as well as a GDP of $9.5 billion.

As for what most of us can relate to — jobs — the BC oil and gas industry was responsible for nearly 26,500 direct jobs and more than 36,100 indirect jobs (62,602 jobs in total) in 2017. Also relevant: The oil and gas sector paid out over $3.1 billion in wages and salaries to BC workers that year.

Here’s another slice of statistical bread to consider: In 2017 the BC oil and gas industry purchased $5.6 billion worth of goods and services from other sectors. That included $600 million from the finance and insurance sector, $770 million in professional services, and $2.8 billion from the manufacturing sector, to name just three examples.

Spending by the oil and gas sector in BC is not the only way to consider the impact of the industry. Given that a large chunk of the oil and gas sector is next door in Alberta, let’s look at what Alberta’s trade relationship with its westerly neighbour does for BC.

BC’s interprovincial trade in total with all provinces in 2017 amounted to $39.4 billion. Alberta was responsible for the largest amount at $15.4 billion, or about 38%, of that trade.

That share of BC’s trade exports is remarkable, given that Alberta’s share of Canada’s population was just 11.5 percent in 2017. Alberta consumers, businesses and governments buy far more from BC in goods and services than its population as a share of Canada would suggest would be the case. Alberta’s capital-intensive, high-wage-paying oil and gas sector is a major reason why.

If Alberta were a country, the province’s $15.4 billion in trade with BC would come in behind only the United States (about $22.3 billion in purchases of goods and services from BC) in 2017. In fact, Alberta’s importance to B.C. exports was ranked far ahead of China ($6.9 billion), Japan ($4.5 billion), and South Korea ($2.9 billion)—the next biggest destinations for BC’s trade exports.

BC has a natural advantage for market access in some respects when compared to the United States. For instance, BC’s coast is near to many Asian-Pacific markets than are U.S. Gulf Coast facilities. The distance between the U.S. Gulf Coast and to the Japanese ports of Himeji and Sodegaura is more than 9,000 nautical miles, compared to less than 4,200 nautical miles between those two Japanese ports and the coast of BC.

The recent demand for natural gas in Asia, especially Japan (the largest importer of LNG) and price increase for natural gas, presents an exciting opportunity for BC oil and gas industry. The IEA predicts that by 2024 , natural gas demand forecast in Asia will be up 7% from 2019’s pre-COVID-19  levels. 

Be it in employment, salaries and wages paid, GDP, or the purchase of goods and services, the impact of oil and natural gas (and Alberta) on BC’s economy and trade flows is significant.

Guest column by Ven Venkatachalam and Lennie Kaplan are with the Canadian Energy Centre

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Opinion

SLOBODIAN: Schuler the black sheep of the Manitoba Tory family

While piously bleating about responsibility in a pandemic, these sheep are cleverly deflecting from their sinister stand on something they don’t support — one’s right to medical privacy.

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One Manitoba MLA — the only one of 57 — has the courage to fight for the right to protect private health information. 

The rest are either timidly silent or scampering to microphones to vilify this flock member for daring to not run with their sheep in-crowd. 

Progressive Conservative Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler is on the verge of getting ousted from Premier Heather Stefanson’s cabinet and banned from the legislature for refusing to reveal his COVID-19 vaccination status.

Stefanson decreed a COVID-19 vaccination mandate effective December 15 for everyone entering the building.

Years of hard work — Schuler was first elected in 1999, won five subsequent elections, and has held impressive posts — suddenly matter not. 

What about the constituents who democratically elected him to represent them? Pfft. Nobody cares.

Like health workers, teachers, oil workers, police officers, firefighters, restaurant employees, Manitobans from all walks of life who won’t comply with questionable, harsh forced mandates, Schuler may be deprived of a right to earn a living

And the lone elected voice of reason in perennial COVID-19 hysteria will be muzzled. 

The right to work is now taken away just because something irks elected officials. Not providing proof of COVID-19 vaccination irks them so much they casually destroy careers and lives.

Maybe Schuler’s vaccinated. Maybe he isn’t. He says it’s nobody’s business but his.

“As stated in the house, no one in Caucus is opposed to vaccinations, however, my personal health information is a private matter and I do not discuss my personal health information publicly,” said the Springfield-Ritchot MLA in a written statement to Western Standard.

He refuses media interview requests. Can’t blame him.

The Winnipeg Free Press polled all MLAs about their vaccination status. Aha! Schuler and Seine River PC MLA Janice Morley-Lecomte were outed for refusing to cough up personal information. Morley-Lecomte buckled to pressure and confirmed she’s vaccinated.

No one appears to have a problem with media infringing on liberty and freedom by giving itself licence to poke into something that — until COVID-19 was sacred — an individual’s right to keep health information private. 

In this COVID-19 madness, the obliging media increasingly oversteps boundaries it’s supposed to protect.

Angus Reid recently found 70% of 1,000 Canadians surveyed believe employees should be fired if they refuse to be vaccinated. That means they must reveal vaccination status which is private health information.

Would those surveyed feel the same way if a reporter chasing a story asked them about that embarrassing rash in private places, an abortion, reliance on anti-depressants, or any other medical conditions?

If so, it would be useless to run to one’s MLA for help. Readers revealed to me that one Manitoba MLA flippantly told an oil worker who refused the vaccine for religious convictions to just go get vaccinated. He lost his job. Another MLA coolly told a constituent to go hire a lawyer if she didn’t like the rules.

Schuler’s vaccination status commanded new attention when it was revealed that a 70-year-old assistant in his constituency office died of COVID-19. 

No details were provided on whether the assistant was vaccinated or where she contracted COVID-19. 

But NDP house leader and justice critic Nahanni Fontaine pounced, calling for Schuler to be booted from cabinet, saying it would be “unconscionable” if he remained.

To his credit, Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said it would be wrong to jump to conclusions about the tragic death, but yes, Schuler should be tossed.

Health Minister Audrey Gordon told media she’s a “vaccine ambassador.”

“I’ve always tried to lead by example in my life. I’m a vaccine ambassador, and if others want to follow my lead, I strongly encourage them to do so,” said Gordon, who with two other cabinet ministers was outed for violating mandates whilst frolicking at a gala sans masks and social distancing.

Schuler has been participating in question period virtually for a few months. The chamber already only allows MLAs in who have received two doses.

Nonetheless, Stefanson imposed a tougher rule — get vaccinated or get banished. 

Back to the NDP’s Fontaine who told the Winnipeg Sun MLAs must “step up.” 

“And if MLAs don’t stand up, who the heck is supposed to step up?”

Oh, the irony of chastising an MLA who is doing exactly that. Schuler is stepping up heroically, not only for himself but for all being bullied into sharing personal information.

Former Ontario privacy commissioner Dr. Ann Cavoukian recently told Blacklock’s Reporter she rejects vaccine passports in any form.

“You’re talking about people’s personal health information. That is between your doctor and yourself. Now all of that has changed … I find it abhorrent,” said Cavoukian.

“People’s health status is considered to be the most private, sensitive information they have … The problem is privacy protection measures, once they are lifted in an emergency, are seldom restored.” 

Schuler appears to understand the sinister ramifications of that. This is about more than him.

The premier and MLAs who choose to represent only Manitobans who dutifully obey them may silence him.

While piously bleating about responsibility in a pandemic, these sheep are cleverly deflecting from their sinister stand on something they don’t support — one’s right to medical privacy.

Baaaa….

Slobodian is the Senior Manitoba Columnist for the Western Standard
lslobodian@westernstandardonline.com

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Opinion

LOGAN: It’s time to divest from Suzuki

“It’s time to send a message to Suzuki where it will hurt the most – his donors.”

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Eco-alarmist David Suzuki has become more than just your everyday environmental activist — he’s become a well-known Canadian brand.

And it’s a brand that helped create the David Suzuki Foundation, which in 2020 raised more than $13 million for various environmental causes.

But what happens when the namesake of your charitable foundation not only feeds into, but repeats the dangerous rhetoric being employed by extreme environmental groups like Extinction Rebellion?

It was at an Extinction Rebellion event in Victoria in November that Suzuki crossed the line between peaceful activism and extremism.

“There are going to be pipelines blown up if our leaders don’t pay attention to what’s going on,” vowed the 85-year-old activist, best known for hosting CBC’s The Nature of Things.

And he wasn’t ready to back down following the outrage sparked by his comments, telling Victoria’s CHEK News it was “absurd” for people to think he was inciting violence and didn’t regret his comment.

“I meant it. I said it. I regret that the media … would take the context of that article, which was a fine report, and put the headline that totally slants it as if I’m inciting violence,” Suzuki said.

The Foundation that bears his name was quick to distance itself from the co-founder’s comments, saying Suzuki wasn’t speaking on their behalf.

Suzuki eventually apologized for his remarks, saying they were said out of “extreme frustration,” and not meant to support violence.

But despite the apology, Suzuki refused to condemn Extinction Rebellion’s defense of his own comments, which only further raised the temperature.

“Not only will pipelines be blown up, but we can be certain that world leaders will be put on trial for treason or worse — be killed,” said Extinction Rebellion’s National Action & Strategy Coordinator Zain Haq, doubling down on Suzuki’s comment.

It’s time to send a message to Suzuki where it will hurt the most — his donors.

You can send a letter today to the David Suzuki Foundation’s largest donors telling them that his violent rhetoric is unacceptable. Just click on this link.

If activists like Suzuki won’t hold themselves accountable, you can do your part to make them accountable to the people who write their paycheque.

Let these companies and foundations know that it’s time to divest from Suzuki!

Guest column by Shawn Logan with the Canadian Energy Centre

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