Stephen Buffalo is president and CEO of the Indian Resource Council.
The reaction to the recent Federal Court of Appeal decision on the Trans Mountain pipeline has been near hysterical — and for good reason. The stoppage of the pipeline project, the best-studied project in Canadian history and one with substantial Indigenous support, has people speaking with despair about the future of the oil and gas industry in the country, the now-diminished prospects for future development, and even the fragility of Canadian federalism.
First Nations peoples who support the pipeline — and there are many — agree that the situation is dire, but we see more than a few reasons for optimism in the midst of the anxiety.
The debate over the pipeline expansion has forced First Nations, Métis and Inuit people across Canada to think very hard about where oil and gas development and infrastructure projects fit into their economic and environmental futures.
An enormous amount of attention has been paid to the First Nations on the British Columbia coast, who oppose the pipeline or, more accurately, the ocean shipping associated with getting those products to world markets. We recognize and honour their commitment and their world, even if we do not share particular points of view.
We have heard, also, a great deal from environmentalists, many of whom proudly declare that they are working on behalf of the First Nations. We do not need that. They do not speak for all of us. We share the environmentalists’ concerns about the future of our planet, but wonder why they are so determined to undercut the few opportunities we have to enjoy the kind of economic prosperity that non-Indigenous peoples take for granted in this country.