First Nations report on BC's offshore moratorium

It’s two for two for BC’s First Nations and for the protection of land and oceans.

On November 18, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed that government must consult First Nations with any transfer of tenure or permit to use or extract resources from Crown land.

On November 19, the “Priddle Panel” reported that 75% of British Columbians are opposed to lifting the moratorium on offshore oil and gas activities.

Now a report has been issued that makes it abundantly clear how much First Nations value an unpolluted coast. Of over 70 First Nations communities, every one of them wants to retain the moratorium. Money, jobs, and other carrots dangled by industry and government lose appeal, if the cost involves putting nature at risk.

Given the findings in this report, it is difficult to envision how government, particularly the Gordon Campbell Liberals, with a reaffirmed requirement to consult with First Nations, are going to “consult” their way around this absolute First Nations’ objection to lifting the offshore moratorium.

What follows is extracted from the report:

Rights, Risk and Respect
A First Nations Perspective on the Lifting of the Federal Moratorium on Offshore Oil & Gas Exploration in the Queen Charlotte Basin of British Columbia
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The First Nations Engagement Process (FNEP) on the question of whether or not to lift the federal moratorium on offshore oil and gas exploration in the Queen Charlotte Basin of British Columbia’s coastal waters was announced by Minister Efford on February 18, 2004. Originally slated to end June 30, the information gathering phase was extended to September 3, 2004. By that time the Minister’s representative Cheryl Brooks and NRCAN’s Zo Carlson had held meetings and conversations with representatives of approximately seventy First Nations communities, including the majority of the communities directly adjacent to or near to the boundaries of the Queen Charlotte Basin. Other communities were from the Winona, Tofino and Georgia Basin areas and a few from inland British Columbia.

The numerous First Nations of the Northwest Coast and other coastal communities and inland communities of British Columbia who participated in the FNEP unanimously indicated that it is not in the best interests of their people to lift the oil and gas exploration moratorium in the Queen Charlotte Basin. A small number added the qualifier that “it should not be lifted at this time”.

There are two perspectives contributing to this conclusion. One view is that an informed decision cannot be made on the basis of currently available information. The second view is that there is enough information available now to definitively conclede that the moratorium should absolutely not be lifted.

Though not one First Nation that met with FNEP endorsed the lifting of the moratorium, many First Nations indicated a preparedness to more fully explore the issue of offshore oil and gas exploration provided they are adequately resourced and given enough time to do so.

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