Voices from the North

Residents of British Columbia's North West are looking for economic opportunities at a time when jobs are disappearing. Here are three authentic voices from the struggling region.

A "calculated attempt to deliberately mislead"?

This is a letter to the editor of Maclean’s sent by Mike Scott, a former Member of Parliament for Skeena, which encompasses Haida Gwaii as well as Port Edward/Prince Rupert and almost one quarter of BC. He was responding to a recent article that appeared in the magazine, which frequently betrays the signs of Toronto-bound editing. Scott began by pointing out that he is a Conservative Party of Canada supporter and not a federal Liberal.

The referenced article gave extensive coverage of the Trudeau Government's  recent approval of the giant Pacific Northwest LNG project. This was written in the context of a larger story ostensibly covering Prime Minister Trudeau's relationship with First Nation peoples. I find your coverage of this one-side to the point of blatant bias, shallow, bereft of facts and most egregiously, a calculated attempt to deliberately mislead. 

The irrefutable facts are:

• The LNG project the Liberals approved, and which you claim is creating "fury" within indigenous communities, actually has substantial support and buy-in from most First Nations in Northern BC including 4 of the 5 Tsimpshian nations whose traditional territories encompass the area where the project will actually be located.

• These FNs have all signed "Impact and Benefit" agreements with the LNG proponent. Agreements that will provide very strong revenues for Tsimpshian FNs as well as business opportunities, training and employment for their people for the next 50 years if the project is built. Perhaps most importantly, the Tsimpshian were an integral part of that extensive (almost 4 years) environmental review and their views and concerns are reflected in the 190 conditions the project must adhere to. As well, Tsimpshian will play a vital role as environmental monitors for the project going forward. The 5th Tsimpshian Nation, Lax Kwa'alaams, intially opposed, is now giving conditional support.

• This LNG project is one of several that is broadly championed by BC Premier Christy Clark. She won a stunning upset victory in 2013, against all predictions by pundits and assorted intelligentsia, in no small part because she advocated bringing an LNG industry into our province. She and her government have worked extremely hard to deliver on that promise and I fully expect that she will be rewarded with a renewed mandate next May precisely for that reason. The point is, LNG enjoys strong public support in BC, across political lines in spite of the "no" forces attempts to paint the picture differently. 

• An even more telling indicator of how LNG is playing out amongst indigenous peoples in northern BC is the recent nomination of Haisla Chief Ellis Ross to run as a BC Liberal Candidate for the Skeena riding in the upcoming Provincial election. Chief Ross has been an unabashed supporter of LNG and has publicly said the reason he wants to be an MLA is so that he can be even more effective in helping to bring LNG to a reality for the benefit of our region.

• Almost all of our northern BC communities are in trouble, economically, with declining employment, small business closures, declining real estate markets and aging infrastructure. This includes indigenous communities. We remain heavily dependent on resource industries as the foundation of our northern economy. We always have and we always will. No amount of wishful thinking on the part of social engineers who fill the ranks of the radical environmental movement will alter that fact regardless of how hard they try to impose their dysfunctional world view. Most of us who live in resource communities in northern BC are proud of the way we do things. Our environmental laws and regulations are the best in the world. Literally.

Your article is carefully crafted in a way that leaves readers, unfamiliar with the facts, the impression that Prime Minister Trudeau's government is running roughshod over indigenous concerns, recklessly approving energy projects at the expense of the powerless and disenfranchised, when nothing could be further from the truth.

The question is - why? To what purpose is your magazine deliberately trying to give Canadians a distorted view? One can only assume the author of this story has an agenda and I believe she does. When you produce this kind of grossly inaccurate story you become less a news magazine and more a propaganda organ for the hard Left. 

Th article, sprinkled with words like "fury" and "anger" makes so many distorted claims and assertions that, at least as it relates to LNG, is almost completely dishonest.

I am no Liberal supporter but I say Prime Minister Trudeau and his government ought to be commended for finally approving this LNG project. The benefits for First Nations, BC and Canada are enormous. 

Yours truly,

Mike Scott

Terrace BC


Why do people want to stand in the way of progress? 

Prince Rupert resident Renee Wheatley took a somewhat different tack in an lengthy response she wrote to an editorial in The Northern View:

Too bad that our MLA and MP have got their heads in the sand and don't see what is happening to our community. Take a walk down 3rd Ave or in the Mall and see how many businesses have closed up. Take a look at the state of our neighbourhood streets, nearly all need repair to the roads and sidewalks. Take a look at the cityworkers digging massive holes in the roads to fix pipes that are crumbling and need replacement, it's ongoing all over town. 

We are not the once 'thriving little coastal town' we used to be. The mill has been long closed which employed over 700 workers, the fishing fleet is depleted, canneries have disappeared and if it wasn't for the container port or Ridley Island industries Rupert would be in a very sad state indeed. 

Why do people want to stand in the way of progress? If the LNG project is going to work with the governments on ensuring safety and protecting the environment, why can't this be accepted and leave the door open for more talks rather than slam the door in their faces and walk away? 

And if NDP oppositional local government leaders approve these actions taken by the First Nations groups...what are they still doing as representives of the people when the majorty of their constituents do support LNG. Time for change, we need officials in government to support us, work for us, not against us. We need people who'll read and research what's happening, not taking the word of scientists who have never been to the proprosed site and worked on it and seem to think it's okay for protesters to be paid by U S based groups who are against Canada getting into the LNG market.

Take a look at our little town...not much left here now. Most of us drive to Terrace to shop due to lack of choices and many services have left town. What's next? School enrollment is down and our hospital is nothing like it used to be...so will we see more cuts to those budgets? 

We need an economic boost, more jobs, more people who will create spin-off jobs...our local economy needs to grow so we can prosper and City Hall needs more tax dollars to fix our crumbling infrastructure..then maybe we'll be able to get out of debt and look at a much brighter future for our little town.....


Ready for a different outcome

And finally, here is an open letter to an anti-LNG group posted on Facebook by North West resident Lucy Sager-Praught. She posted it to Facebook and has allowed us to reproduce it here.

Dear Skeena Wild,

As I watched your pictures unfold today in Vancouver as you assisted in launching lawsuits against PNW I felt compelled to respond. I want you to know how disapointed I am that you would accept foreign funds to oppose economic development in Canada. That you would knowingly oppose opportunity for Northwest British Columbia. I remember talking with you years ago understanding that in fact you too were tied to an oil and gas economy becuase without a project to oppose you would in fact also be out of work. Win or lose you are also sitting on the edge I'm sure wondering where the next target will be.

Tomorrow marks the 7th year anniversary of the announcement of Eurocan closing. I remember exactly where I stood... At my computer in Out Spoke'N Bike and Sport and I knew that I would lose everything I had. The stress was insurmountable and I remember my ears started ringing and although I couldn't hear I could look up and see customers in the store not knowing what had just transpired.

I can't help but wonder if you gave yourselves a high five... If you celebrated but not really understanding the incredible loss that would come to the region. Keys would be turned into the bank, vehicles would be reposessed, bankruptcy would be filed...

I'd like you to know that as you line up your funders, as you rally your social media that this time it's going to be different. We aren't going to let you have free reign in smear campaigns, we will not let local business owners be bullied for believing that LNG is a once in a lifetime opportunity, this time the masses are going to come together and let you know that foreign investment in opposing the progress of British Columbia is no longer welcome here.

When you invest in the best outcomes of people, when you train people to be biologists and hydrologists we create better projects. We all care about the environment, we all care about the best outcomes of our families and we know you do too.

This time we're going to have a different outcome... and it won't be a no.


Lucy Sager-Praught

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