Saints demand end to oil and gas sponsorship

  • Feb. 16, 2015 5:00 p.m.

By Quinn BenderHaida Gwaii ObserverMembers of the Skidegate Saints have appealed to organizers of the All Native Basketball Tournament to terminate its relationships with sponsors from the oil and gas industry.In an emotional letter to the tournament committee Jan. 21, 14 signatories of the three-time defending Seniors Division champions wrote the industry’s presence is an attempt to gain social license in a tournament that once filled a void created by genocide and colonization. They want tournament organizers to reject sponsorship from companies planning to export oil or liquefied natural gas from the North Coast ­-including current sponsors BG Group, Pacific NorthWest LNG and Aurora LNG-as well as those planning to construct pipelines to carry the product to the terminal. The Saints, who will look for their fourth straight title this year, claim the sponsorship is ruining some of the enjoyment of past years. “The tournament is special for so many reasons and we strongly feel the committee’s fundraising direction is eroding the spirit and soul of this once great event,” reads the letter.”For our generation the All-Native is the place where we gather and interact with one another Â… with the heavy oil and gas industry presence and sponsorship last year it feels like the whole event has been compromised and has lost some of the integrity that has been built up over the years.”Looking back at photos Â… these great memories are tainted with the sponsorship signs and imply an acceptance of the industry by all participants and communities. As far as we know, these companies are using images of the First Nations people at the tournament to sell their projects as First Nations supported and endorsed, which is not the case.”We are in opposition to the fracked liquefied natural gas and oil projects that are being proposed and if playing in the tournament is associated with these projects the we will have to consider not attending the tournament in the future.”Part of the expenses incurred by the tournament come from a per diem paid to players and coaches still competing, a number that reached $45,000 in 2013, but the Saints say that is an expense they could do without. “We are not there for the fancy prizes or per diem, but for the pride of representing our nation,” the team wrote.All Native Basketball Tournament president Peter Haugan declined to comment on the letter or the request of the Saints to forgo sponsorship from oil and gas companies. The Observer called 2014 Best Defensive Player, Jason Alsop, who posted the letter to his Facebook page, but he declined to comment further. “I think the letter speaks for itself and we have nothing else to add,” he said.with files from Shaun Thomas

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