"First Nations See Clean Energy as Game Changer

This Opinion Piece ran in the Vancouver Sun today September 11, 2014, the paper version, Section B page B7 but was not available electronically so I am reproducing it here. 

First Nations in BC recognize that the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision in Tsilhqot’in provides them with greater certainty to develop resources in their territories for clean and renewable energy. They call upon the government of BC to work with them to make this a reality and increase First Nation participation in the economy that brings control commensurate with resource ownership.  First Nations know that Aboriginal title comes with responsibility especially to their own peoples who have been waiting to participate in modern Canadian society but have too often been relegated to poverty in their own territories.

First Nations want natural resource developments that meet standards that protect the environment, builds  lasting legacy infrastructure and embraces sustainable development.  These principles of stewardship serve all British Columbians and the long term perspective we need to embrace as we seek jobs and investments for our economies.  It is not just about our generation but others who will follow and inherit our legacy.

As First Nation leaders we support clean and renewable energy because it meets the environmental and economic  principles enunciated above and there is an abundance of cost-effective opportunities in the province to develop wind, run-of-river hydro, biomass, off shore wind, solar, geothermal, ocean  and tidal energy projects which could benefit all 200 plus First Nations in BC.  This could be a game changer for First Nations who have already had positive experiences.

Hupacasath First Nation developed the 6.5 MW China Creek Hydro project which also includes the City of Port Alberni as a shareholder.  Ask the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation about what the Canoe Creek and Haa-ak-suk hydro projects have meant to their community bottom line.  The Cape Scott Wind Farm commenced operations several months ago and includes 3 Northern Vancouver Island First Nations as partners: Quatsino, Tatlatsikwala and Kwakiutl.

Kwoiek Creek is a joint venture partnership on a 49 MW hydro development between Kanaka Bar Indian Band and Innergex Renewables.  Kwagis power is a joint venture partnership between the Namgis First Nation and Brookfield Renewables. 

In the neighborhood of the Bennett Dam and BC Hydro’s controversial Site C are 3 wind projects which the Treaty 8 First Nations have negotiated impact benefit agreements 

Coast Salish First Nations such as Klahoose, Shishahl, Sliammon, Squamish, and Sts’ailes are partners in numerous clean energy projects that are providing cost-effective power to BC Hydro customers and provides economic benefits to neighbouring local communities.  There are many other First Nations who have experienced the opportunity to be involved in the development and operations of clean energy projects and there is opportunity for more. 

We are told that there is unprecedented opportunity for oil and gas, LNG, and mining developments in BC all of which require large amounts of energy for operating power.  While these developments will have to justify their environmental and economic cost-benefit to society and obtain First Nations consent, we are concerned that there is little evidence of the federal and provincial governments planning to use renewable energy – BC Hydro’s Integrated Resource Plan approved by the provincial government in November 2013 only appears to justify Site C and a Standing Offer Program which will see perhaps 2 to 3 small projects built per year. This now has to change.

Let’s face it, First Nations now have a stronger role to approve or not approve all natural resource developments on their lands.

It seems to us that it is a no brainer that where ever possible clean and renewable electricity would be maximized by project developers and governments.

When we as Chiefs and First Nation leaders meet the provincial Cabinet on Sept. 11 we look forward to developing our relationship further and to find opportunities for renewable electricity development that are beneficial for all BC First Nations.

In light of the recent Tsilhqot’in Case, First Nations, government and industry are assessing how much the BC landscape has changed in terms of Aboriginal title because it has changed.  First Nations are ready for that change and are willing and able to develop clean and renewable energy in their lands.  Now, BC must step up and meet this challenge.

 

Judith Sayers/First Nations Clean Energy Working Group

Shishal, Sts’ailes, Lil’wat, Sliammon First Nations

 

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