A look back at our look forward – First Nations

Each year at Dogwood Initiative we undergo a rigorous and esoteric ritual of predicting the future. Last year we made our predictions public for the first time, forecasting upcoming trends for democracy, energy, First Nations, forests and communities.

This is the second bulletin in a five part series looking at our predictions concerning the challenges and opportunities we expected to present themselves in BC in 2006.

First Nations

“As in the early years of Gordon Campbell’s provincial Liberals, Conservative leaders are well known for their anti-native sentiments. So expect more “get tough on natives” talk from Ottawa. This will cause yet another slow-down in treaty negotiations and other matters that involve a federal role.”
-Dogwood Initiative, January 2006

We got this one right. Frustrated by the lack of progress on the Mackenzie Valley pipeline, last fall Mr. Harper quipped that his government would be reforming legislation to streamline and expedite the approval process. His statement was code words for a desire to try to shut down the First Nations opposition by changing the law.

“Now that First Nations are faced with a more overtly anti-native government in Ottawa, they will likely respond by de-prioritizing negotiations and ratcheting up more aggressive tactics.”
-Dogwood Initiative, January 2006

Also as predicted, this anti-native rhetoric backfired as evidenced by the Dene Tah First Nation success in getting the federal court to shut down the National Energy Board (NEB) hearings on the Mackenzie pipeline. Also, the recent announcement from the assembly of First Nations that it was filing a Human Rights Complaint, and perhaps a lawsuit,  against the Torry’s child services policies.

“We predict Aboriginal hot spots will develop around coalbed methane, the offshore oil and gas moratorium, tanker traffic on BC’s northern coast, the Enbridge pipeline, the explosion of new mining claims/projects, the ongoing deregulation of logging and softwood lumber.”
-Dogwood Initiative, January 2006

We were right on six out seven.

Coalbed methane and mining

Opposition to coalbed methane grew among First Nations in 2006. The Tahltan remain opposed to coalbed methane in the Sacred Headwaters of the Stikine, Skeena and Nass and Shell Canada was again forced to abandon drilling fort another year. They also went toe to toe with bc Metals over a proposed open pit mine south of Iskut. The Wet’suwet’en have stood their ground with residents of Smithers and Telkwa in opposing Outrider energy, and now Norwest’s attempt to drill for CBM in the Bulkley Valley.

Coastal oil and gas drilling

Because of ongoing coastal First Nations’ opposition the federal Conservative’s were forced to commit to not overturn the existing moratorium on coastal drilling under their minority leadership or, even if they became achieved a majority in Parliament.

Enbridge Pipeline and the longstanding oil tanker moratorium

The Oweekeno, Kitasoo and Nuxalk recently conveyed “their unanimous opposition” to Enbridge’s Gateway project and the Carrier Sekani filed a lawsuit against it in federal court. This project is one of several that would see the dismantling of the 35- year old moratorium protecting BC’s coast from oil tankers. Harper’s Conservatives have backtracked on the oil tanker moratorium. There are currently eight proposed oil and gas projects moving forward which could bring 320 tankers per year into BC’s fragile coastal waters. Resolve among First Nations is hardening. Expect the fight to heat up in the coming year.

Softwood lumber and the deregulation of logging

The unexpected softwood lumber agreement scuppered our prediction that the First Nations would engage in the softwood lumber issue. However they are pushing the BC government on a number of forest policy fronts and concessions are being made. In coastal BC, in the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii, First Nations are negotiating new ecosystem-based management measures that will dramatically improve on-the-ground practice over the minimal standards required by law. Land use plans and co-jurisdictional decision making process are being negotiated by the Haida and Gitanyow. Expect something big on First Nations and forest tenure in 2007.

“Although Stephen Harper envisions a decentralized federalism with more power and authority being transferred to the provinces, don’t expect similar power transfers to First Nations.”
-Dogwood Initiative, January 2006

As predicted, the movement towards First Nations self definition envisioned by the now scrapped Kelowna Accord, stalled and began to move backwards under Harper’s Conservatives. While political climate in Victoria warmed rhetorically (though we await a change in the business as usual approach to resource issues), a chill occurred in Ottawa.

Read how we did on our predictions on Energy. Stay tuned for a look at our 2006 predictions on Democracy, Forests and Communities.

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