Members of a group interested in developing offshore oil and gas met with Guujaaw in Sandspit last week (September 21), and heard the CHN president outline his concerns about the industry.
Board members of Ocean Industries BC were meeting in Sandspit, and invited Guujaaw to attend. Barry Holmes of Sandspit is the group’s vice chair, and it includes several members from Prince Rupert, and elsewhere on the coast.
Guujaaw and the CHN are well-know opponents of offshore development, but this day he was willing to listen and talk.
“I am here for a dialogue, I am open to any discussion about it,” Guujaaw said, and noted the “Haida Nation has never lost sight of the fact that this is our land”.
“As for the oil and gas or the timber,” he said, “it is our people that live with the consequences with what happens on these lands. But he also said “it is never harmful to examine things a little more closely.”
He said fighting against development is “the only defensive thing we could be doing, from where we sit right now” and added that the province’s words sound good, but “it is still going to be up to those of us who live on this coast to hold them to it”.
And while he was willing to talk about offshore oil at the meeting, he wanted to make sure the group knew that it is the big picture that interests him more.
“We have jurisdictional business that has to be dealt with. Our approach has got to be for the whole works,” he said, “Every tenure is illegal. It is a broad case that we have.”
Guujaaw offered the group little hope except that he is willing to listen and talk, and said “as far as inland drilling goes, it could be examined, I suppose.”
(The oil) “is still there too talk about, to think about. How long will it be there? Our people are interested in the talks (at several tables), because we are the ones who live here. It is healthy for people to be caring about it,” Guujaaw said.
Guujaaw pointed out that oil and gas development in Cook Inlet, Alaska, often pointed to as a good example of development, has a downside as well. There are two sides to the story, he said, adding that if you are willing to give up your lifestyle for a pickup truck, a little bit bigger house and a speed boat, that’s possible. But, “(Cook) inlet is spoiled for fish” he said.
I am encouraged by what I am hearing you sayÂ…In the case of oil and gas, the pie is pretty big. The bigger piece the First Nations get, the better for all of us on the north coast,” Steve Smith from Prince Rupert said. “I hope we can encourage the government to have some meaningful discussion with you”.
Prince Rupert’s Bob Payne said “saying no is not meaningful consultation” to which Guujaaw replied that if you are not going to affect anything, there is no reason to consult.
Earlier the group heard from Patrick O’Rourke, assistant deputy minister of energy, who told them that while there is a huge potential in the offshore, there are also both technical and political challenges. Still, he said the province remains very interested in development and has ordered a number of fairly significant steps.
“If it is going to be done, it is going to be done right. If it can’t be done right, it is not going to be done,” he said.
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