Terasen Exec Acknowledges First Nations' Power

Finally, a corporate executive admits what is obvious to anyone monitoring Aboriginal issues in BC. Big logging, mining and fossil fuel companies have a major problem in BC – their licences to operate are vulnerable to First Nation challenges and the courts are backing the natives.

Rich Ballantyne, president of Terasen Pipelines, finally broke the cloak of silence, by going public in the National Post with his concerns about First Nations’ interfering with the Mackenzie Valley pipeline and his proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline. The Trans Mountain proposal would carry oilsands crude from Alberta to a port in either Prince Rupert or Kitimat. Calgary-based Enbridge has a competing proposal for the same route.

The Terasen executive acknowledged that his proposed pipeline would cross hundreds of kilomtres of land subject to unsettled First Nation claims.

Balantyne indicated, “In British Columbia, it’s all First Nations territory, the whole province has never been ceded. So it’s all subject to unsettled land claims…”

What’s surprising is that someone finally made public what has been well known in corporate boardrooms for some time (witness the recent report by the Business Council of BC).

Thta’s why the growing collaboration amongst First Nations signalled by the Title and Rights Alliance and the recent Haida court victory spell so much trouble for Campbell’s government.

The lawsuit recently filed by the Deh Cho against the Mackenzie Valley project has energy executives across Canada and BC politicians jittery. The last thing they want are First Nations to stand up to their ambitious plans to ratchet up exploration and production to satisfy the unquenchable America thirst for fossil fuels.

When you bank your political future on creating “certainty” on the land to facilitate energy exports, yet refuse to engage meaningfully with First Nations about the “land question”, while pursuing an agressive privatization and deregulation agenda, you are lighting the fuse around an already explosive situation.

The events of the next few years will determine who gets burnt.

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