This is the last piece outlining my platform for re-election to Huu-ay-aht First Nations Council. In this piece, I’ll outline my thoughts on and approach to the exploration of an LNG facility on Sarita Bay in partnership with Steelhead LNG, but also how I think Huu-ay-aht would best access economic opportunities by focusing on developing positive relationships and cultivating a good reputation in the wider world. Thanks for reading!
Exploration of Liquefied Natural Gas
In mid-2014, Huu-ay-aht entered into an agreement with a BC company, Steelhead LNG, to explore the idea of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility in the southern area of Sarita Bay. The reason Huu-ay-aht even considered the idea was for the reason that Steelhead took the right approach. Before they did any field work, before they started working in earnest with the province, Steelhead sat down with our government and asked us if we wanted to be involved. I cannot stress enough how different this practice has been in comparison to other LNG, and even other resource projects, in other parts of British Columbia. Not only that, this company did so before the Williams Decision, otherwise known as the Tsilhqot’in Case, which stated that companies who wish to develop major resource projects must seek out and consult with First Nations before they begin work. So, despite any misgivings people might have about the LNG industry in general, I can say that Steelhead LNG has done well in approaching Huu-ay-aht at the front end of the project. It is for this reason, that I supported the prospect – supported exploring the opportunity.
Since then, we have done much to ensure that our government, our administration, our hereditary leaders and our people have an up-front understanding the nature of the natural gas industry, how LNG differs from other energy sources, and how we might move ahead on the project. It all culminated in a moderately positive vote at our November 2014 People’s Assembly to continue exploring the project in the next stage where more detailed feasibility studies would be done. These studies would look at all manner of topics in relation to the project: economic and employment, health and safety, cultural and archaeological, as well as access to traditional resources and all manner of environmental impacts – fish, wildlife, migratory birds, rivers & streams, air quality, greenhouse gas, oceans, seismic and more. I supported the notion of moving into the second phase of detailed studies, because I felt as though we needed to know more before we could earnestly support or oppose this major project.
We Need to Know More
I believe that this project, as with any major economic development project, will have a deep and long-lasting impact on our lands and people. Whether it is ultimately a negative or a positive impact will depend on a lot of things, many of which we do not yet know. We may believe, but we do not yet know; and good decisions are not made on feelings alone, they are made on careful consideration of all available information, knowledge and wisdom. Until those studies are complete, I do not believe any government can rightly approve or deny this project. I am cautiously optimistic, and given my education background in economic development that should be expected, but I am also all too aware of the potential for this project to adversely affect many envi-ronmental and cultural aspects of life in our territory. I will be one of the first to admit that we do not (yet) know enough to make a decision, but I believe that we can impress everyone in how we go about ensuring we make an informed one.
Traditional Values in the Modern World
We all rely on free trade to create value in the global economy. This actually makes a lot of sense from the perspective of hish-uk (ma) tsawak, or the idea that everything is one. From my understanding, hish-uk tsawak is the notion that all things are interconnected, interdependent and have reciprocal relationships. This works in the natural world, and this works in the human world, too – in this instance, the world of economics. Global trade today means we are generally free to interact and trade with any other people or company in the world. What we need to understand is that all countries are interdependent with one-another, and that’s the way it’s always been. In a world of free trade, it has become quite clear that no Nation can truly stand alone; not Canada, not the United States, not even China. We all have things to trade, things that we have and things that we want. It’s up to us to understand what we have to offer and how we can connect to the global economy and benefit.
Good Relationships and Good Reputations
How we conduct ourselves as a government, as a people, as a Nation, during the investigation of this potential project that will matter very much for our future economic opportunities. This is a global in-dustry, one that BC and Canada is trying very hard to break into successfully. In real terms, the world is watching us. We have done the right thing in exploring this project in a deliberate and rational manner. How we have conducted ourselves so far has opened doors for us in places we might not have imagined in years prior. Huu-ay-aht has been successful in winning its independence in a political sense, all we need to do now is show the world, and the business people who make investments, that we have the maturity to honestly and calmly explore any economic opportunity without resorting to petty politics or divisive rhetoric.
Regardless of whether we choose to move ahead with LNG, I think it’s upon us to show the world that we have chosen to be a part of the world, we have chosen to build and create and to do it the hard way, the old-fashioned way, the only way it has ever really been done right. We have the wisdom of ages gone past, the knowledge of the land and our resources, and we have the promise we have made to our children. We are up to the task, we have the passion and the will to once again take our place in the world. We just need to remind the world who we are and what we’re capable of doing. I hope to be a part of that. Chuu.