Editorial: To avoid blockades in the future, stop the waffling

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Protesters block the Johnson Street Bridge on Feb. 8. They said they were acting in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose construction of a natural gas pipeline in northern B.C. Photograph By DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

With the Wet’suwet’en protests now largely behind us, for the time being at least, there is an urgent need for a serious discussion about how such matters should be handled in future. It seems quite likely there will be more to come.

We say that partly because when police forces stand aside and allow roads and rail lines to be blocked, it emboldens protesters to ramp up such tactics. But it is also a reality that our governments, provincial and federal, have communicated a sense of unwillingness to become actively involved.

The starting point for any such discussion should be how much is due to Aboriginal groups when resource projects are being planned. The Supreme Court of Canada has said that consultation is obligatory, and that it must be meaningful, not cursory or perfunctory.

But the court has also ruled that First Nations do not have a veto over such projects. That is to say, while they must be heard in a respectful manner, and every effort made to mitigate whatever concerns are raised, their consent is not constitutionally required.

However, in a commentary on this page two weeks ago, a First Nations negotiator wrote that consultation is no longer by itself deemed adequate or sufficient. Consent is now a necessity if there is to be genuine reconciliation.

It is essential that our political leaders make clear where they stand on this. There are 198 First Nations in B.C., and 634 nationwide. If consent, rather than consultation, is to become the ruling principle, that must be said.

In our view, this policy would be tantamount to hanging a “going out of business” sign at the border. What is the likelihood that foreign resource companies will invest in Canada if such a labyrinthine approval process were adopted? Recently, American billionaire Warren Buffett pulled out of a liquid natural gas pipeline project in Quebec, citing “the current Canadian political context.” But what cannot be allowed to happen is continuing confusion as to what the rules are. That merely invites further blockades as protesters test the will and resolve of governments to call a halt.

There is a precedent here. In 1990 an armed standoff between police and members of the Mohawk First Nation in Oka, Ont., led to a police officer being killed. Ownership of land was at stake.

Two factors played a part in this tragedy. First, law-enforcement agencies, seeking to avoid a confrontation, stood aside in the early stages. But that merely allowed the situation to reach a boiling point.

Second, some of the protest leaders began believing their own rhetoric, which became increasingly violent as things dragged on for 78 days. Arguably, had police taken a firm stance earlier, this might not have happened.

There is also a necessity for leaders within the Aboriginal community to talk this matter through. Some of that is already happening.

For First Nations groups cannot complain about high levels of unemployment on remote reserves, with the accompanying dysfunction that causes, if some remain adamantly opposed to projects that can bring jobs to their region.

We understand the sensitivities involved. Numerous land title claims have gone unresolved for decades. Impatience and distrust are entirely reasonable given this fact.

But by slamming the door on resource projects, Aboriginal leaders are not only depriving their own people of much needed work. They are undermining the Canadian economy upon which we all ultimately depend for services such as health care and education. There is no future in that.

First and foremost however, Parliament and provincial legislators must stop waffling and make clear how future blockades will be dealt with. Until that happens, there is an open invitation for more of the same. SOURCE

What will it take to end blockades? Indigenous community members warn deal may not be enough

WATCH: On rail blockades, Trudeau says it’s ‘never appropriate’ to deploy military against Canadian citizens.

Image result for rail blockades:trudeau says it is never appropriate to deploy military

Members of Canada’s Indigenous communities are warning that a new deal reached by the federal government and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs may not be enough to end rail blockades that have disrupted the country’s economy.

The deal is meant to put an end to protests that have spilled out across the country in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who oppose the 670-kilometre Coastal Gaslink pipeline from northeastern B.C. to Kitimat that is expected to be built through their unceded territory.

The proposal, which has yet to be formally agreed upon by the hereditary chiefs, is said to address broader land claims, rights and titles.

READ MORE: ‘We support them’: Kahnawake railway blockade continues despite tentative deal in B.C.

But even if the agreement is ratified, Lee Maracle, a lecturer at the University of Toronto’s Centre for Indigenous Studies, said, “It’s not really up to what happens with the Wet’suwet’en and the government” whether the blockades come down. “It depends on the people making the blockades.”

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Maracle, who is also an award-winning First Nations fiction author, said the blockades have become about more than just a pipeline. She said different people are manning the blockades for different reasons.

“Some of the blockades are because people don’t want pipelines, period. And some of them are in support of Wet’suwet’en having some say in what happens in their territory,” Maracle explained.

Protesters set up new rail blockade in Montreal

“If they have decided that they’re going to keep the blockades up in opposition to pipelines, then whatever the Nation decided with the government may be affected.”

Tensions between the Canadian government and Indigenous Peoples have been mounting for decades, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau being accused of not taking reconciliation seriously and criticized for ignoring the plight of the First Nation until it reached its boiling point.

According to Maracle, the turmoil felt by Canadians affected by the blockades is happening because its government “refused to have a conversation” and undergo what she described as “legally required” consultation.

“The turmoil has always been right there, except we’re the only ones who are enduring it. Indigenous people are the ones that are enduring being ignored, enduring not being able to have a conversation with the government when they know very well that they’re supposed to consult us, and we’ve endured several governments that have not been willing to [help],” she said.

READ MORE: Indigenous people in Canada facing racism over Wet’suwet’en solidarity blockade action

“We’ve endured a lot of turmoil. Canada’s now sharing in the turmoil. That’s what’s happening.”

Coastal GasLink maintained they had the support of 20 elected band council members along the pipeline’s construction route, but the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who also lay claim to their ancestral territory, were not consulted.

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Prior to the finalized agreement proposal, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said she hoped it would serve as the “beginning” in a new relationship between government and Indigenous peoples.

She said the agreement could lead to a new consultation process where “at the very first idea of a project, the rights holders would be there at the table with their Indigenous knowledge and the voices of their nations.”

Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada said in a statement to Global News that they were working “around the clock” to resolve the issue in a “peaceful and lasting way.”

Blockades in Kahnawake continue despite agreement

This arrangement, they said, will breathe life into the Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa decision — the first comprehensive account of Aboriginal title in Canada — “so that future generations do not have to face conflicts like the one they face today.”

“While work remains, these talks have been an important step on reconciling complex matters of rights and title. We understand that we are at a critical time, and we need to begin to build a new path together,” they said.

But when it comes to the proposed deal, Andrew Brant of Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory said “actions speak louder than words.”

Brant, who works as a teacher and is an active participant in the blockades, would not give a definitive answer on what exactly would be enough for him to end the blockades, but he said that a good first step would be for the government to redefine reconciliation and “come clean” about how much the government has hurt Indigenous communities over the years.

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“The truth is the treaty has been broken and it’s been broken for a long time,” he said, referring to the Numbered Treaties, which were signed between 1871 and 1921 and outlined Indigenous land ownership.

READ MORE: Indigenous land conflicts to persist unless sovereignty addressed, Wilson-Raybould says

Brant said he would like to see the government own up to what he called a past “genocide” against Indigenous Peoples and for the disproportionate violence against First Nations men, women and children to come to an end.

“They’re spending more resources and time fighting us than they are trying to help us, we’re treated as subhuman,” he said.

“They need to take some action that’s peaceful, non-forceful — because you can’t force people to negotiate, you sit down and negotiate as equals.”

When asked if there was anything the government could do to end the blockades quickly, he said only time would tell.

“Our lives have been blockaded for over 500 years. So I think a few days, weeks, years of trying to negotiate something, sit down and come to a peaceful resolution is not much to ask,” he said.

“We respect them and we want us to continue living together, but we want to have an equal voice.”  SOURCE

What If We’d Gone Hard for Treaties Instead of Fossil Fuels?

Our politics likely would be more stable, our economy more diversified.

Woodfibre LNG plan

An artist’s rendition of the proposed Woodfibre LNG plant near Squamish, one of 20 such projects once floated, but either cancelled or yet to be built.

Weeks of national rail blockades, Indigenous relations in tatters, and an emergency agreement between Ottawa and Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs. So what has been resolved?

Not much apparently. The B.C. government made it clear that it intends to push ahead with the contentious natural gas pipeline and the same route opposed by Wet’suwet’en Hereditary leadership.

How did we get in this mess and how do we get out?

As car wrecks go, this was as slow-motion as they come, political failures decades in the making. The same basic choices presented themselves to one political leader after another. Repeatedly they chose wrong or dithered.

Had they not, today’s government could enjoy stable and just relations with First Nations, partnering in a 21st-century economy that’s more clean and diversified. Instead we are mired in the consequences come home to roost.

The needless debacle of a RCMP intrusion onto Wet’suwet’en Traditional Territory is a result of successive governments failing to resolve outstanding title claims, which in the case of the Wet’suwet’en predate their 1985 court challenge to the B.C. government. This case eventually resulted in the landmark Delgamuukw decision from the Supreme Court of Canada in 1997 articulating the nascent principle in Canadian law of Aboriginal title.

What should have happened then was the hard and necessary work on the part of elected governments to negotiate settlements with individual First Nations, consistent with direction provided by the courts.

Twenty-three years later, pitiful progress has been made. The province has treaties with only three B.C. First Nations. Fifty-seven others that signed up with the B.C. Treaty Commission process are either still laboring at the table or “not currently negotiating” — including the Wet’suwet’en. There is no free lunch as the free-marketers say and the consequences of failing to resolve title issues were on obvious display at railway crossings across the country.

The foolish bet on LNG

True, to have wagered serious provincial resources on resolving complex treaty deals would have meant a bold roll of the dice 20 years ago. But it’s not as if B.C.’s government hasn’t instead bet huge on a play that today shows little prospect of ever paying off.

Seven years ago then-premier Christy Clark won election while misleading voters about the supposed riches liquefied natural gas would bring B.C. Even as she promised that by 2017 at least three LNG plants would be generating a $100-billion savings fund, erasing all debt and employing tens of thousands of people, experts declared that to be a fantasy.

By three years ago, methane prices had collapsed 75 per cent due to a worldwide glut and Australia’s LNG industry was bleeding losses.

Today, bizarrely, B.C.’s government continues to aggressively scale up natural gas extraction on unceded lands at the very moment in history such contentious pipeline projects make the least economic sense.

Natural gas prices around the world are tanking. Natural gas royalties in B.C. have shrunk to a minuscule portion of provincial government revenue while gas production — and emissions — have ballooned.

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Christy Clark and her successor BC Premier John Horgan. Both bet huge tax money and political capital in the LNG dream. Photos: BC Broadcast Consortium.

In the last ten years provincial gas production has increased 45 per cent while public revenues collapsed by over 90 per cent. With more than $380 million in provincial subsidies, the net return to taxpayers from gas production last year was only $153 million — less than 0.25 percent of Crown revenues. This supposed boom sector now provides the B.C. treasury one quarter as much money as taxing cigarettes.

According to B.C. government figures, the oil and gas sector directly and indirectly employed 12,600 people in 2019, or 0.49 percent of the provincial workforce — about the same number of people employed as couriers. Meanwhile reported emissions from well sites and pipelines now exceed that of all personal vehicles on the road in the province.

If we also include eventual emissions from burning the 52 billion cubic metres of natural gas produced in B.C. in 2017, the atmospheric burden amounts to more than 170 per cent of the entire B.C. economy.

Methane is over 20 times more powerful than CO2 in heating the atmosphere so limiting leaks over the vast and remote network of fracking facilities and pipelines is critical for fighting the climate emergency. However, peer reviewed research based on the first and only independent field sampling of well sites in northern B.C. found official estimates of fugitive methane from this supposed “green” energy are two-and-a-half times higher than reported by industry and the B.C. government.

Lead or get out of the way

The two most pressing issues facing the Canadian resource sector are honourably resolving issues of Aboriginal Title, and providing credible and predictable policies to address the climate crisis. However, various provincial governments seem to be still pretending that these imperatives do not exist.

Apart from an abysmal economic case, the CEO of Teck Resources made it clear that the absence of consistent public policy on climate change made their $20.6 billion Frontier bitumen mine project untenable. While Alberta Premier Jason Kenney sees political advantage in endless fights with Ottawa, industry instead seeks certainty. Most major fossil fuel companies have in fact been calling for predictable carbon pricing for years.

And finally now, after the Teck withdrawal and amidst the blockade crisis, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has decided, “What I think we need to do now is have a very urgent, very serious conversation between the federal government, the provincial government, the oil sector and indeed, the whole country….”

Here in B.C., the supposed imperative of natural gas extraction is blowing both our climate goals and efforts towards Indigenous reconciliation out of the water. It is long overdue to begin an honest conversation with the B.C. public about this planet-killing sunset sector.

The $10.7 billion Site C dam was approved largely in service of a long-hyped LNG boom that so far has only resulted in one single project under construction that is years from completion.

world awash in cheap natural gas and the U.S. fracking industry will keep North American prices close to historic lows for the foreseeable future.

Much of our provincial production, meanwhile, is sold in Alberta to extract bitumen — itself a dying industry. LNG exports from Kitimat to mythically lucrative Asian markets are at least five years away — likely too late to secure global market share.

Vast amounts of monetary and political capital have been squandered on this boondoggle. When will we have the political courage to cut our losses and move on? Apparently not yet.

Likewise, there seems no likelihood of Jason Kenney’s government having an honest conversation about the future of the fossil fuel sector with Alberta’s voters. Even as private capital flees the sinking sector, he plans to throw scarce public money and pension funds at a doomed industry.

Why? Because it easier than admitting that years of overheated rhetoric to the contrary was simply untrue. Ripping up carbon pricing and picking fights with rating agencies only drives away what little investment might be interested in Alberta’s oil patch, but apparently the show must go on.

First Nations and their supporters have again reminded provincial and federal governments that resource extraction without respecting Indigenous rights is no longer acceptable. Markets have made it clear that the days of easy money thrown at fossil fuel megaprojects have also gone by the wayside, especially in the absence of credible carbon pricing.

It is the job of elected governments to provide leadership and certainty on the pressing issues of the day. Judging by the smoldering situation with First Nations in Canada and the jittery mood of investors in the resource sector, our leaders need to do better. Much better.  [Tyee] SOURCE

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How BC’s LNG Fiasco Went So Wrong

To understand B.C.’s push for the Coastal GasLink pipeline, think fracking, LNG Canada and the Site C dam

The pipeline at the centre of the Wet’suwet’en conflict is also central to the province’s long-running effort to attract multinational corporations and build up a liquefied natural gas export empire — all with infusions of public money. Here’s what you need to know

Cabin gas plant B.C.

If you had mentioned the Coastal GasLink project two months ago at a dinner party you likely would have been met with blank stares and a quick segue to Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s Vancouver Island hidey-hole.

Since early February, when the RCMP arrested Wet’suwet’en matriarchs, hereditary chiefs and their supporters — setting off nation-wide blockades of rail lines and ports and igniting a national debate about Indigenous rights and title, large resource projects and the global climate emergency — Coastal GasLink has risen from obscurity to infamy.

Most reports describe the project as “a natural gas pipeline.” But the reality is far more complex.

The Narwhal zooms out to focus on the bigger picture, which includes two other industrial projects in the works, one foreign-funded (LNG Canada) and the other publicly funded (the Site C dam).

Spoiler alert: the big picture includes billions in subsidies for industry, tens of thousands of idle and orphan fracking wells, a multi-billion dollar clean-up bill and massive climate impacts.

What is the Coastal GasLink pipeline?

 The Coastal GasLink pipeline will carry fracked gas from gas plays on B.C.’s northeast to Kitimat on B.C.’s northwest for export to Asian markets.

The pipeline is owned by TC Energy Corporation, a Calgary-based company more commonly recognized by its former name TransCanada and for another fiercely opposed pipeline project, the Keystone XL.

TC Energy has partnered with some of the world’s most profitable oil and gas corporations to build the 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline, which will cut through old-growth forests, wetlands, rivers, streams and habitat for critically endangered species such as southern mountain caribou.

Want to know how much money TC Energy president and CEO Russell Girling makes? Girling made $11.4 million in 2018, according to company documents.

Coastal GasLink Pipeline Map

Map of the Coastal GasLink pipeline. Map: Carol Linnitt / The Narwhal

What does the Coastal GasLink pipeline have to do with the LNG Canada project?

The short answer: one would not exist without the other.

The longer answer?

LNG Canada project will take fracked gas from the Coastal GasLink pipeline and cool it in massive compressors — at a new Kitimat facility — to minus 162 degrees Celsius, the point at which gas turns into liquid. The liquefied gas will then be transported to Asia in ocean tankers as long as six football fields.

Natural gas prices recently fell to their lowest level in four years, due to a persistent glut. The United States, traditionally the main user of Canadian gas, is poised to become self-sufficient in the fuel due to new extraction technologies.

Cue the multinationals and the dream of LNG.

Demand for LNG has been growing, particularly in Asia, and B.C. wants in. (Although demand has recently stalled due to milder winters and the novel coronavirus outbreak, threatening to make LNG plants around the world unprofitable.)

LNG Canada is a joint venture of Royal Dutch Shell, Petronas, PetroChina, Mitsubishi and Korean Gas.

Royal Dutch Shell, the globe’s fourth largest oil and gas company, is a public British-Dutch owned corporation headquartered in the Netherlands. It owns 40 per cent of LNG Canada.

A second partner, Petronas, is owned by the Malaysian government and has a 25 per cent share in the project.

The Chinese government-owned PetroChina Company Ltd., the world’s third-largest oil and gas company, owns 15 per cent, as does Japanese multinational Mitsubishi.

Korean Gas Corp., which completes the multinational quintet, is owned by the South Korean government and is the world’s largest importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG). It has a five per cent share.

LNG Canada project, Kitimat B.C. 2017

The site of the LNG Canada project in Kitimat in 2017. Photo: Garth Lenz / The Narwhal

Government press materials tout LNG Canada as a $40 billion project, calling it “the largest private-sector investment in B.C.’s history.”

But LNG Canada estimates a $25 to $40 billion investment for a two-phase project. Only phase one of the project has received approval.

For phase one, LNG Canada has only committed to spending between $2.5 and $4.1 billion in B.C. and acknowledges that between $7 and $11.1 billion for phase one will be spent on foreign soil. This includes the cost of construction of the export facility, which will be manufactured abroad and shipped in pieces to Kitimat.

LNG Canada will be one of the country’s largest greenhouse gas emitters

If you followed the recent debate about Teck Resources’ Frontier oilsands mine, noted for its environmental impacts and greenhouse gas emissions, hold onto your hat.

LNG Canada will be one of the country’s largest greenhouse gas emitters — and that’s before fugitive methane emissions from fracking are factored into the carbon equation.

According to the B.C. government, the LNG Canada project will emit four megatonnes of carbon emissions each year during its first phase — the equivalent of adding 856,531 cars to the road.

Teck’s Frontier oilsands mine would have emitted 4.1 megatonnes of greenhouse gases a year, putting the two projects almost on par with each other for carbon pollution during LNG Canada’s first phase.

If the project’s second phase goes ahead, LNG Canada will emit more than double the carbon of the cancelled Frontier oilsands mine project — 8.6 megatonnes per year in 2030, rising to 9.6 megatonnes in 2050.

That’s roughly the equivalent of putting 1.7 million new cars on the road each year.

The B.C. government’s emissions estimate includes only the first phase of the project.

Emissions from both LNG Canada project phases would represent close to three-quarters of B.C.’s legislated target for greenhouse gas emissions in 2050, set at about 13 megatonnes a year.

Isn’t natural gas a clean, environmentally friendly fuel?

Industry has successfully marketed gas as ‘natural’ because, like other fossil fuels, it comes from the earth. The term “natural gas” is now widely used.

The majority of gas shipped through the Coastal GasLink pipeline will come from northeast B.C., where the predominant form of extraction is a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. B.C. is the fastest-growing natural gas producer in Canada, thanks in large part to the advent of fracking.

Fracking is a technique that involves blasting a mixture of water, chemicals and sand deep into the earth to break apart rock formations and release previously inaccessible oil or natural gas deposits.

Fracking uses vast amounts of fresh water. Recent frack jobs in northeast B.C. have used more than 22 million litres of water per well — enough to fill about nine Olympic-sized swimming pools. The water becomes contaminated after the fracking process and must be disposed of in tailings ponds or by being injected deep underground.

The industry’s pressing need for fresh water has resulted in the construction of at least 90 unlicensed dams in northeast B.C.

Fracking releases significant carbon emissions through fugitive leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. New research published in the journal Nature suggests natural gas is a much dirtier fossil fuel than previously thought, with emissions that put it on par with coal.

There is also increasing evidence of human health issues linked to fracking. One study found mothers who live close to a fracking well are more likely to give birth to a less healthy child with a low birth weight.

Human health issues related to fracking were recently flagged by Dawson Creek doctors as a potential cause for concern after they saw patients with symptoms they could not explain, including nosebleeds, respiratory illnesses and rare cancers, as well as a surprising number of glioblastomas, a malignant brain cancer.

An independent scientific review commissioned by the B.C. government found that fracking entails numerous unknown risks to human health and the environment.

The review did not include a thorough examination of the public health implications of fracking, in keeping with the government’s quiet assurance to the industry lobby group Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers that the hot button issue would not be part of the panel’s mandate.

Even before a fracking boom gets underway for the LNG Canada project, there are more than 11,000 inactive fracking wells in B.C. that need to be decommissioned and the land restored to its previous condition.

In an audit last year, B.C.’s former Auditor General Carol Bellringer found the oil and gas commission had not secured enough money from companies to cover an estimated $3 billion in cleanup costs.

Bankrupt fracking companies have also left the commission — and, ultimately, taxpayers — responsible for cleaning up a burgeoning number of orphan wells, including contaminated sites and wastewater pits.

The number of orphan wells is poised to double to between 646 and 746 this year, after a 769 per cent increase over the past four years. Last year, the commission reclaimed just four orphan well sites. It plans to reclaim 15 sites this year, leading many to wonder if the province will ever catch up.

What does this all have to do with the Site C dam, anyway?

The publicly funded Site C dam, currently under construction on B.C.’s Peace River, will provide subsidized electricity for the LNG Canada project.

The Site C dam was rejected in the 1980s and 1990s — the first time by the watchdog B.C. Utilities Commission after two years of hearings, and the second by BC Hydro’s own board of directors, who said the project was too costly and its environmental and social impacts were too great.

B.C.’s former Liberal government approved the project in 2014 after changing the law to strip the utilities commission of its responsibility to determine if the project was in the public interest.

The dam will flood 128 kilometres of the Peace River and its tributaries, putting an area the equivalent distance of driving from Vancouver to Whistler under water up to 50 metres deep.

Site C construction. Peace River. B.C.

Site C dam construction on the Peace River. Photo: Garth Lenz / The Narwhal

B.C.’s NDP government had an opportunity to cancel the project after it came to power in 2017 but chose to continue construction, approving another $2 billion for the dam’s escalating tab, which now stands at $10.7 billion.

The Site C dam will flood traditional Treaty 8 territory, including First Nations burial grounds, trapping and hunting grounds and cultural and spiritual sites. It will eradicate some of Canada’s richest farmland, inundate protected heritage and archeological sites, destroy habitat for more than 100 species vulnerable to extinction and flood 800 hectares of carbon-storing wetlands.

You can read all about the project and its impacts on the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (formerly the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency) website. Be warned: it’s about 15,000 pages.

A UBC study found the Site C project will have more significant adverse environmental effects than any project ever examined in the history of Canada’s environmental assessment act, including oilsands projects, mining projects and the Northern Gateway project, which was cancelled by the Trudeau government on the grounds that impacts on First Nations and the environment were unacceptable.

The global human rights group Amnesty International says the Site C dam project violates human rights and does not meet international standards for forced evictions. Two Treaty 8 First Nations have filed civil claims alleging that the Site C dam and two previous dams on the Peace River constitute an unjustifiable infringement of their treaty rights.

Lawyers warn that a settlement in favour of the nations could add $1 billion to the Site C dam price tag.

How did governments push to advance the LNG Canada project?

To attract the corporations behind LNG Canada, B.C.’s NDP government offered a smorgasbord of direct subsidies worth an initial $5.35 billion, in the form of tax reprieves, tax exemptions and discounted electricity rates.

Without government handouts the LNG Canada project, set to begin operation by 2025, would not be economical for the companies involved.

The B.C. government justified the subsidies on the grounds that LNG Canada will provide 10,000 construction jobs (that’s including construction jobs on the Coastal GasLink pipeline) and $24 billion in provincial revenue over the next 40 years.

The list of subsidies is long but it’s your money so you might want to know how it’s spent. Grab some popcorn and settle in. Ready? Here we go.

While British Columbians have to pay provincial sales taxes on, for example, an electric car, LNG Canada’s PST exemption means the company will not have to pay this tax during its construction period. That gives the consortium what is essentially an interest-free loan for two decades, for an annual savings of about $19 million to $21 million, according to economist Marc Lee, who has called the LNG Canada project a “carbon bomb.”

The NDP government has also eliminated the LNG income tax (a tax the B.C. NDP supported while in opposition), while a natural gas tax credit gives LNG Canada an additional three per cent corporate income tax cut.

While touting its Clean BC plan, the provincial government has at the same time exempted LNG Canada from increases in the B.C. carbon tax above $30 per tonne.

The consortium will get a rebate that economist Lee pegs at about $62 million a year (once the carbon tax, now at $40 per tonne, rises to $50 per tonne next year).

And, even as BC Hydro customers face rate hikes totalling eight per cent from 2019 to 2024, the publicly funded Site C dam will provide subsidized electricity for LNG Canada.

According to Lee, the new power supplied from Site C will cost about double what LNG Canada will pay for it — amounting to a subsidy valued at between $32 million and $59 million per year. That leaves ratepayers to make up the difference.

“The LNG Canada agreement locks in these tax and subsidy provisions for 20 years against future changes by governments that might be concerned about, say, climate change,” Lee notes in the Georgia Straight. “A decade from now — amid growing climate chaos — a newly elected B.C. premier would have their hands tied by having to pay financial compensation for any changes to the four measures that affect LNG Canada’s bottom line.”

Provincial ratepayers and federal taxpayers will also foot the bill for new transmission lines for the LNG Canada project.

Through its “Investing in Canada Infrastructure Plan,” the federal government will contribute $83.6 million to the cost of building a new transmission line to supply B.C.’s natural gas industry with power from the Site C dam. BC Hydro, a publicly owned utility, will provide $205.4 million. If you’re a BC Hydro customer, that’s your money.

In August 2019, the B.C. and federal governments also announced a $680 million fund to support the further electrification of LNG in B.C. Details about what each level of government will pay, and when spending will occur, have not yet been announced.

Additionally, the federal government has granted a $1 billion tariff exemption for the importation of steel modules for the LNG Canada and Woodfibre LNG projects.

The B.C. government also provides LNG Canada with indirect subsidies. B.C.’s royalty regime offers the gas industry a range of credits that substantially reduce the actual royalties paid. Royalties are what companies pay to governments for developing a publicly owned resource.

The B.C. budget released last month shows that natural gas royalties would have been $534 million this year. But after royalty credits are deducted the number drops to $153 million — a far cry, Lee points out, from gas royalties in the $1 billion to $2 billion range the province collected in the early 2000s.

Deep well credits are yet another form of subsidy for the gas industry, with the B.C. government providing $1.2 billion to fracking companies over a recent two-year period.

Canada provides more government support for oil and gas companies than any other G7 nation and is among the least transparent about fossil fuel subsidies, according to a report from a coalition of NGOs.

But won’t the Site C dam produce clean energy?

Large hydro dams are a hugely expensive and destructive way to generate renewable energy. They are not “green,” or environmentally friendly.

The Site C dam and its reservoir will eliminate ancient wetlands called tufa seeps, old-growth boreal forests and a living laboratory for scientists to study how species adapt to climate change. It will also poison bull trout, a species vulnerable to extinction, and other fish with methylmercury.

The Peace River Valley, which would be inundated by the dam, is a flyway for migratory birds and part of the boreal bird nursery. It hosts three-quarters of all B.C.’s bird species. As many as 30,000 songbirds and woodpeckers nest in the dam’s future flood zone, which stretches the equivalent distance of driving from Vancouver to Whistler when flooded Peace River tributaries are included.

One study by U.S. scientists shows hydro reservoirs produce considerably more carbon emissions than previously thought. About 80 per cent of the emissions are in the form of methane, a greenhouse gas 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

A UBC-led report debunked the unsubstantiated claim by the B.C. and federal governments that the Site C dam’s ecological impacts are justified on the grounds that the project will deliver electricity with lower greenhouse gas emissions than other sources.

The report also found that alternatives to the Site C project would create significantly more jobs, produce electricity at a lower cost with fewer risks and have a significantly lower environmental impact.

What’s next?

After three days and nights of negotiations between Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and the federal and provincial governments, a tentative agreement on land rights and title was reached on March 1. Details of the agreement, which will be shown to all Wet’suwet’en members, have not been released.

Horgan recently said he has no intention of altering the province’s position on the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

“I firmly believe, after many decades involved in public policymaking and observing events, that we are absolutely on the right course,” the Premier said, “and I’m going to carry on.” SOURCE

 

Kahnawake residents weigh in on whether to maintain rail barricade

Rail service was briefly disrupted Monday afternoon by separate blockade in Pointe-Saint-Charles

The rail barricade has been up since Feb. 8 in Kahnawake, on Montreal’s South Shore. (Diana Gonzalez/Radio-Canada)

Residents of the Mohawk territory of Kahnawake, south of Montreal, are mulling over whether to maintain a rail blockade that’s been up since Feb. 8.

Community members attended a meeting at a longhouse in Kahnawake Monday evening. Media were not permitted to attend.

“There’s a lot of thought and consideration being given to these next steps,” Kanen’tó:kon Hemlock, a spokesperson for the longhouse, said Tuesday morning.

“There’s no definite deadline, but people do definitely feel that a decision does have to be made soon.”

The barricade in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs crosses a Canadian Pacific Railway line and has disrupted both freight and commuter service.

A Quebec Superior Court judge issued an injunction against the Kahnawake blockade last week, though authorities have not yet enforced the order.

This flag flew above the blockade which was dismantled by police in Saint-Lambert last month. (Radio-Canada)

 

The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are opposed to a pipeline project that would run through their ancestral territory in northern B.C.

Their opposition sparked protests across the country after RCMP officers arrested several people in Wet’suwet’en territory last month.

Over the weekend, Wet’suwet’en chiefs and representatives of the federal and B.C. governments announced they had reached a draft agreement concerning some of the issues involved in the pipeline dispute.

The tentative deal reportedly addresses Wet’suwet’en demands for rights and title recognition, but not the pipeline itself.

Kenneth Deer, a Mohawk elder serving as a spokesperson for the activists at the blockade, said they want to speak with Wet’suwet’en chiefs before deciding what to do next.

“It’s a big decision to decide to take down the barricade or not, and they want to make sure they have everything before they make that decision,” Deer told reporters at the barricade on Sunday.

Protesters stood on CN Rail tracks near Wellington Street in Montreal’s Pointe-Saint-Charles neighbourhood, Monday afternoon, before leaving. (Radio-Canada)

Via Rail, Exo service briefly blocked

Monday afternoon, a small group of masked protesters briefly disrupted passenger and commuter rail service in Montreal.

Around 20 protesters stood in the rain for several hours on CN Rail tracks near Wellington Street in Montreal’s Pointe-Saint-Charles neighbourhood.

They left after a sizeable police presence assembled nearby.

Via Rail, which uses the CN tracks, said the protest delayed some departures and arrivals.

Service was also temporarily delayed — out of safety concerns — on a separate commuter line that connects Mont-Saint-Hilaire to downtown, according to Exo.

Last month, CN applied for and received an injunction to dismantle barricades on its tracks within the province.

Police used this injunction to disperse protesters who had set up a barricade on CN tracks in Saint-Lambert on Feb. 21. SOURCE

Nipissing First Nation blasts ‘mainstream media’ over Wet’suwet’en coverage

Nipissing First Nation chief and council is signalling its support for the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to the construction of a natural gas pipeline through their traditional territory in British Columbia. Michael Lee/The Nugget

Nipissing First Nation chief and council are slamming the “mainstream media” for misrepresenting Indigenous nations and voices in the ongoing dispute over a natural gas pipeline in British Columbia opposed by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.

In a statement posted on the Nipissing First Nation website Thursday, chief and council say “it can be difficult to distinguish facts from rhetoric and truth from hidden agendas” in light of the “barrage of information” from social media and the misrepresentation from mainstream media.

They also point to the 1997 Supreme Court of Canada ruling which said the Wet’suwet’en people, as represented by their hereditary leaders, had not given up rights and title to their 22,000-square-kilometre territory.

“Nipissing First Nation stands in solidarity with the people of Wet’suwet’en who are protecting their traditional territory from infringement. We must show support not only for the rights of the Wet’suwet’en people, but also to affirm our own rights to govern and protect our lands,” the statement says.

The show of support from Nipissing First Nation comes as Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs were set to meet for a second day with senior federal and provincial ministers Friday to discuss the Coastal GasLink pipeline project in B.C.

Demonstrations and rail disruptions have escalated in recent weeks following the arrests earlier this month of hereditary chiefs and their supporters after the RCMP enforced a court injunction, granted to Coastal GasLink, that called for the removal of any obstructions from roads, bridges or work sites the company has been authorized to use in Wet’suwet’en territory.

Two rallies have since taken place in North Bay in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.

Coastal GasLink also has agreed to a two-day pause in its activities in northwestern B.C. and the RCMP has committed to ending patrols along a critical roadway while the negotiations unfold.

Nipissing First Nation chief and council, meanwhile, say Canada is breaking its own rule of law and has yet to ratify the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

They add that the support shown across the country, and even globally, is evidence that many people who have taken the time to inform themselves understand the injustices Indigenous people face.

“Nipissing First Nation’s leadership supports our Wet’suwet’en family’s sovereign right to self-determination, including the right to govern and protect their lands. They need the time and space to move forward with a unified voice in whatever direction they choose to take,” they said.

“What we’ve seen from mainstream media and Canada’s leadership is alarming and distressing. It’s an example of reconciliation at its worst, and colonization at its best. This is not just about pipelines. Indigenous people deserve better.”

Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Glen Hare, meanwhile, is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to meet with the hereditary chiefs and come to a “peaceful and respectful resolve” together.

In a statement, Hare said the events unfolding harken back to September 1995 when protesters occupied Ipperwash Park and unarmed protester Anthony “Dudley” George was killed by an Ontario Provincial Police sniper.

He also highlighted other longstanding issues — 25-year boil water advisories in Ontario and Canada’s decision to challenge the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal compensation ruling for First Nations children, youth and families — calling them not just First Nations issues, but human rights issues.

“We understand that some of our citizens are participating in protests and we hold the health and safety of First Nation citizens in the highest regard,” he said. “We urge citizens not to engage or dialogue with those making racist comments or who are exhibiting harassing behaviour.” SOURCE

Wet’suwet’en solidarity protests echo across country, despite Monday’s arrests

Protesters shut down Hamilton, Niagara GO trains Tuesday morning

A woman wears a bandana over her face reading ‘Land Back’ as protesters march to block a road used to access to the Port of Vancouver, during a demonstration in support of Wet’suwet’en Nation hereditary chiefs attempting to halt construction of a natural gas pipeline on their traditional territories, in Vancouver, on Monday. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Disruptions are echoing across the country this morning despite police moving in to end a train blockade, as demonstrators continue to protest in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary chiefs who oppose a pipeline in northern British Columbia and the federal government’s handling of the file.

On Monday, Ontario Provincial Police descended on a rail blockade set up more than two weeks earlier by the Tyendinaga Mohawk near Belleville, Ont., and charged 10 protesters.

It cleared the way for train service to resume in the area, but as the first train moved along the tracks around 7 p.m. ET Monday, protesters tossed a tire on the tracks and set it on fire.

Other transit disturbances have popped up across the country in solidarity.

This morning protesters from Six Nations of the Grand River near Hamilton shut down GO Transit in support of some Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters who oppose the building of a $6-billion Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline in B.C.

The transit company announced on its website that as the result of the ongoing police investigation along the tracks, its trains couldn’t service Niagara Falls, St. Catharines , Hamilton or West Harbour stations on Tuesday morning.

The protesters have also blocked a section of Highway 6.

A Facebook page called Wet’suwet’en Strong: Hamilton in Solidarity said the protesters were shutting down the rail lines because of the “violence perpetrated towards Indigenous land defenders and their supporters” and the “forced removal and criminalization of Indigenous people from their lands.”

The post adds “disruption is what we must turn to” in order to make change. It also said the protesters will be in place as long as possible.

School buses were delayed in parts of Quebec on Tuesday, as a blockade on the highway running through Kanesatake and Oka, Que., continued.

A spokesperson for the Sûreté du Québec said Monday that officers were watching the protests on Highway 344 “very closely.”

No reconciliation through force: AFN

Across the country in British Columbia, members of the Gitxsan Nation set up the blockade near New Hazelton, north of Smithers, midafternoon on Monday, following the OPP’s arrests. The renewed protest comes less than two weeks after a similar blockade at that site was dismantled on the promise of dialogue from federal and provincial politicians.

Witnesses said several people, including at least two hereditary chiefs, were arrested at a railway blockade in northern B.C. Monday evening.

A fire burns on the recently opened CN tracks in Tyendinaga, near Belleville, Ont., on Monday. Earlier Monday police removed a rail blockade in support of Wet’suwet’en Nation hereditary chiefs attempting to halt construction of a natural gas pipeline on their traditional territories in northern B.C. (Lars Hagberg/Canadian Press)

 

A RCMP spokesperson wouldn’t confirm the arrests, saying that area falls under the jurisdiction of CN Police.

Jonathan Abecassis, senior media relations manager with CN Rail, declined to comment.

Protesters also locked themselves to a gate at the B.C. legislature and nearly 100 people blocked access to the Port of Vancouver at East Hastings Street and Clark Drive, preventing container trucks from leaving the port on Monday.

The Mohawks of Tyendinaga have said they would remain by the railway until the RCMP withdrew from Wet’suwet’en territory.

Earlier this month, B.C. RCMP enforced a court injunction against those preventing contractors from accessing the construction area for the Coast GasLink project.

On Friday, the RCMP in British Columbia moved its officers out of an outpost on Wet’suwet’en territory to a nearby detachment in the town of Houston.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said while the government is open to dialogue, the train blockades, which have limited the shipment of goods, had to come down.

Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, issued a statement after the Tyendinaga arrests saying that the police action “shows once again that we will never achieve reconciliation through force.” SOURCE

Indigenous Services Minister asking for meeting in Tyendinaga

Demonstration-2.jpg (2560×1920)

There may be a light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to ending the blockades of CN railway tracks in Tyendinaga.

The Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller is asking that they discontinue the blockades. The Minister is requesting a “Polish the Chain” ceremony with the Mohawk people sometime Saturday in an effort at peaceful reconciliation.
Quinte News has learned that a Mohawk Nation meeting has been set for 9:00 am Friday at Council House, which is the Mohawk Community Centre on York Road.
One of those showing solidarity to the demonstrators is from Attawapiskat.  He name is Jocelyn Wabano Iahtail.  She spoke to the media about the situation, not only in Tyendinaga, but in the relationship between First Nations and “colanizers”.
There is a large police presence in the area, and numerous media members, mostly national.
Members of the media were asked to leave the area closely adjacent to the tracks.  Some demonstrators have told Quinte News there is distrust with some outlets covering of the events over the past week.
There are two demonstration sites.  The main one is beside the three CN tracks at Wyman Road.  A dump truck with a plow attached, tents, oil drum fires, a small trailer, and supplies are on the south side of the tracks.  The property on both sides of the tracks is Tyendinaga Township.  The Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory begins about 300 metres to the south of the tracks.  The other demonstration location is at the south side of the tracks, below the bridge on Highway 49.  There is a school bus paint black, along with a tent, fires and supplies.  That demonstration location is on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.
There is nothing physically blocking the tracks, however last Thursday one person indicated to Quinte News that if  a train were to come through the area, they would place the dump truck on the tracks.

Jocelyn Wabano Iahtail from Attawapiskat talking to the media on Wyman Road in Tyendinaga Township (Photo: Quinte News)

SOURCE

 

How This B.C. Activist Became The Oil Industry’s Number One Enemy

Tzeporah Berman has been instrumental in delaying or stopping 21 oil projects. Her next target: the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Tzeporah Berman Ms Chatelaine sits on a log by the ocean, looking out across the beach
Photo, Johann Wall.

Last December, environmental activist Tzeporah Berman joined thousands of activists, scientists, policy makers and industry reps in Katowice, Poland, for COP24, the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference. She was scheduled to present a comprehensive analysis of the increase in Canada’s oil and gas emissions. Berman has been to many such gatherings, but Katowice, located in the heart of Poland’s coal country, provided a particularly bitter lesson in the contradictory nature of climate change talks. “I would leave my hotel and walk through coal-choked streets, coughing, to get to the climate negotiations,” she says.

Once there, the irony only deepened: While Berman listened to the world’s experts on renewables talk breathlessly about price drops and leaps in technology, in the room next door, Canadian government representatives cozied up to execs from Suncor. The next day, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change presented its grim Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 C. “I’d never seen scientists like that before,” she says, “near tears, frantic and scared, saying it’s worse than we thought.”

Since she was 23, when she first helped coordinate logging protests in B.C.’s Clayoquot Sound, Berman’s mission has been to bring together political enemies (those experts and Suncor execs). In 1993, during what was dubbed “The War in the Woods,” she famously organized blockades that got her arrested and charged with 857 counts of criminal aiding and abetting (the charges were ultimately stayed). Her determination, along with testy negotiations between environmental groups, logging companies and First Nations, ultimately protected the majority of the Sound’s remaining rainforest.

In the decades that followed, Berman became known as one of the country’s most formidable environmentalists, with a reputation as a passionate but pragmatic deal maker who could nimbly balance the needs of industry, the desires of politicians and the health of the planet. MORE