We are neither victims nor gullible fools

Three thousand and five hundred words.

That is the length of Mr. Muir’s unhelpful contribution to the debate surrounding Coastal Gas Link’s proposed natural gas pipeline from the northeast of British Columbia to a yet-to-be built LNG facility in Kitimat.

And instead of adding to the dialogue that is needed between different sides he chose instead to attempt to further divide and misinform our community.

It is tempting to challenge each of the conspiracy theory arguments put forward by this industry activist. Rather, let’s take a step back and see how dangerous and unhelpful his theories are to constructive debate and seeing a peaceful resolution to the conflict that continues to brew on a logging road outside of Houston.

It’s easy to imagine Mr. Muir offering almost identical condemnation of any effort by any group in our history that has sought justice and equal rights. Women, Indigenous, LGBT groups and others have had to stand on lines when they believed that government and/or industry wouldn’t or couldn’t recognize their rights. Building a just society from an injust one is hard work, with the need to understand and not condemn the other side.

In his ridiculing the protest a “transparent sham” and referencing the so-called “dark green web” Mr. Muir disqualifies himself from any meaningful and informed contribution to this critical conversation.

It is hard to ignore the staggering hypocrisy when he calls out foreign funds that sponsor Indigenous and environmental rights groups. Notice how in 3,500 words he neglects to mention the tens of millions of dollars that have flowed from the US, China and other oil promoting nations into Canada to promote pipelines, undermined rights and weaken environmental laws.

We waited patiently for Mr. Muir to reveal who funds his organization (industry) and his organization’s political connections (BC Liberal) but we waited in vain. ‘Do as we say, not as we do’ could have been the title of his article.

From the very start I have supported any project that meet with the basic legal standards set out in Canada’s constitution for meaningful consultation. Not the empty consultations that we northerners have often experienced where meetings are called by government or industry, our input requested but the decision has long since been made.

Regardless of whether you’re for or against the pipeline, the stunning string of victories by Indigenous peoples at the highest courts of Canada (some 180 rulings in the past 30 years).

Getting consultations right matters to everyone. Those victories, and successive governments’ failure to adapt, led to permits being rejected, uncertainty in the resource sector and conflict between family and neighbours in our communities.

At one point the author admits that the courts are the likely place that these questions of authority will finally be resolved. Yet he doesn’t go so far as to encourage that resolution, instead he seems more concerned about the delays than the source.

In 3,500 words Mr. Muir insinuates that Canadians worried about the impact of this project as “banner-carrying mobs”. Northerners have gathered at rallies in support and opposed to the project yet I would never to consider either a ‘mob’. Those of us seeking a peaceful and lasting resolution to this conflict understand how ignorant and unhelpful his insults are.

Backers of the LNG industry argue that time is of the essence for B.C. because it is racing against other jurisdictions around the world. However, Indigenous rights have yet to be sorted out. If CGL proceeds before the issues of rights and title of Wet’suwet’en has been sorted, we will be throwing their rights away.

There are no shortcuts to a just society. Inciting anger may appear to speed up the process, but in contrast it slows the process down. Fortunately we have the courts that will sort through this. In the meantime we don’t need aggravators such as Mr. Muir.

It is of course possible to support the project and still have an intelligent conversation that doesn’t incite more anger. In accusing outside forces of stirring trouble he does exactly that in his inflammatory language.

In fact the expression of these opposing opinions is a factor key ingredient to figuring a path forward.

Finally the writer suggests that development for Indigenous people is equal to economic sovereignty. Therefore to oppose development is to oppose sovereignty. How ridiculous. He has it exactly backwards.

The Wet’suwet’en are seeking to have their legal claim to having a meaningful say on lands that they’ve occupied for thousands and thousands of years. People throughout history that have had economic sovereignty have required legal rights.

The history of oppression of Indigenous people is one of government denying those very rights.

Resolving the role of elected and hereditary leadership in Canada, having a defined consultation process put into law and other issues that this project raise are part of the real work that needs to get done.

Thankfully the Wet’suwet’en chiefs know better. I am grateful that I continue to have intelligent and thoughtful dialogue with them and with CGL about the challenges they face and the path they may take in their hope to build the project.

Repeating lazy and ill-informed conspiracy theories about ‘foreign funded radicals’ would be suggesting we in the north are victims and gullible fools.

We are neither.

- Nathan Cullen

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