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Comments Received re: post about the Wet’suwet’en protest

FTFO has received some comments on our post supporting the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs’ protest of the Coastal Gaslink pipeline. Since we believe that the main purpose of an opinion piece is to generate a conversation, we are posting the comments sent to us by Henry Sielmann as representing an alternative point of view. We have Henry’s permission to post his comments.

We feel, however, that it is worth reiterating one of our main points, that the Wet’suwet’en protest is a consequence of our governments’ failure to negotiate the terms of indigenous rights and title as prescribed by the Supreme Court. The governments are now negotiating with the Wet’suwet’en Chiefs, which is good. Whatever is worked out with the Hereditary Chiefs, however, will be specific to the Coastal Gaslink project and will leave the larger issue of aboriginal rights and title unresolved. We hope that once the Coastal Gaslink issue is resolved, Canada and British Columbia will carry forward with negotiations to resolve aboriginal rights and title. We also hope, of course, that both governments will finally recognize that continued aggressive development of fossil fuels is both destructive and unnecessary.

Henry Sielmann’s Letter:

Though the title "Support for the Wet'suwet'en" implied a balanced view of a highly polarized situation, where various factions within the Wet'suwet'en are struggling to develop a unified position toward the provincial and federal governments, it turned out that you took a view clearly in favour of an outspoken and to some extend self-appointed group representing only a limited number of members.  Yes, the Canadian Government can be faulted for not implementing the 1997 rulings of the Supreme Court of Canada in a timely manner.  But would it not be fair to say that government-to-government negotiations conducted by elected representatives of a First Nation should be predicated on first achieving a majority position among the members of the First Nation and on securing an undisputed mandate?  This obviously was not the case when 20 bands signed an agreement that was then disputed by members of their own Nation.  One cannot fault the Federal Government for that and it doesn't seem fair that the Federal Government is now expected to either find a way to bridge the gap and fuse divergent opinions, or to compensate industry for investments made should the project be cancelled.

The Mission of FTFO is to find solutions for a better future.  In my opinion this can only be achieved by presenting balanced views and being open to compromise.  Supporting a  position that has spawned numerous acts of disturbance, frequently by activist groups pushing their own agenda, does not necessarily encourage open dialog and compromise.

Was it necessary to invoke the complex case of the Wet'suwet'en to communicate FTFO's position on this project?  Or would it have been more effective to focus on the question whether by exporting natural gas overseas, BC may make a contribution toward accelerating the decommissioning of/slow down the construction of new coal-fired power plants  in Asia which to some extent, are relying on coal exported from BC?  This, I know, is a difficult question to answer.

Thank you and best regards,

Henry Sielmann


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