Skeena MLA Ellis Ross meets with National Coalition of Chiefs president Dale Swampy at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 25, 2019. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross meets with National Coalition of Chiefs president Dale Swampy at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 25, 2019. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Western Canada Indigenous leaders choose pipelines over poverty

Nations want ownership, jobs from Trans Mountain, LNG Canada

A former chief executive officer of the Samson Cree Nation south of Edmonton, Dale Swampy is president of the National Coalition of Chiefs. He works with the coalition’s board of directors: Chair Chief Dan George of the Ts’il Kaz Koh First Nation (Burns Lake Band), former chair of the First Nations LNG Alliance; Chief Roy Jones Jr. from Skidegate, Haida Gwaii; and Bruce Dumont, a Métis leader from Olds, Alberta. He spoke with Black Press legislature reporter Tom Fletcher in Victoria, Nov. 25, 2019.

TF: Have you got oil and gas development for your nation?

DS: Yes, we’re part of a group of four first nations who had a deposit near Pigeon Lake. We’ve been getting royalties from that since the 1950s. It’s pretty much depleted now, but we’re still involved in the oil and gas industry. That was sweet crude, and there is an abundance of natural gas in my region as well. I worked for my band for 22 years, and left to work with pipelines and oil companies as a contractor. So I’ve been involved in the oil and gas industry my whole life.

TF: You were involved with the Northern Gateway project. Can you tell me about that?

DS: The National Coalition of Chiefs grew from the aboriginal equity partners, which was a group of 31 first nations who owned one third of the Northern Gateway project. And when it was cancelled, the chiefs were upset that they had lost $2 billion worth of benefits.

We decided that the model that we used for the aboriginal equity partners needed to be communicated across the country, because there were so many natural resources projects going on that in order to maximize the benefits we have to act as a group of community stakeholders.

The aboriginal equity partners proved that being in a coalition gets us a lot more opportunities for employment and business. We formed it in February of 2017. We had our first conference in April of 2018, with 26 chiefs there. We had our second conference in November in Vancouver, and that’s where we grew significantly to 62 chiefs. And this November we had 81 chiefs at our conference.

It’s pro-development, so we don’t invite everybody who wants to come. We warn them that this is not a venue for discussing concerns against the industry. This is where we talk cooperatively and develop partnerships, on the mandate that we’re here to defeat on-reserve poverty. We can’t do that without benefits from the natural resource industries.

TF: And jobs too, because we’ve seen situations where passive income is not a long-term solution?

DS: Yes. Our whole goal is to get the family structure back together. We are in this poverty and the social despair it causes by the fact that everybody is on social welfare, and there are no jobs for them to take up. We need to get the respect back for the first nation mothers and fathers, and in order to do that we need employment.

We’ve signed an agreement with the Aboriginal Skilled Workers Association, an association that has 700 skilled workers from across Canada. We’re working with them to develop training initiatives for first nations to participate in. We did a job fair, and recruited more than 300 potential employees in Stoney Nation, Piikani Nation [job fair] is coming up soon. Cold Lake First Nation, we just completed a job fair there. We’re moving across the country to do these job fairs in order to get the people to understand that there are opportunities out there and we can get them jobs.

We started the Indigenous Strong program, a group of industry workers getting together to share opportunities across Canada, for employment and training. We are promoting the development of two refineries, one in northern Alberta and another one in southern Saskatchewan. These are refineries that brought to us by chiefs who want to form an alliance to build them.

We signed an agreement with project reconciliation and Iron Coalition to promote the Trans Mountain project. We’re hoping to get not only employment and training and business opportunities with Trans Mountain, but to actually own part of it as well.

TF: Last I checked there were competing organizations looking at that.

DS: We brought together our organization, along with the Iron Coalition and Project Reconciliation. We signed a memorandum of understanding at the conference Nov. 4-5. We’re hoping the Western Indigenous Pipeline Group will also join us in getting a proposal in to purchase the pipeline.

RELATED: Project Reconciliation prepares Trans Mountain bid

RELATED: LNG Canada project taking shape in northern B.C.

RELATED: Alberta’s refinery request renews interest in Kitimat

TF: You’re here in Victoria to meet with Skeena MLA Ellis Ross, who’s very interested in the LNG development and Coastal GasLink pipeline?

DS: We met with the First Nations LNG Alliance. The former chairman of that alliance [Chief Dan George] is also chairman of the National Coalition of Chiefs. They suggested that we get in touch with Ellis, come out here and speak to the B.C. Liberal caucus to give them an opportunity to see what we’re all about. We’re about getting the message out to Canada that not all first nations are against projects.

TF: The NDP supports LNG too. There are three Green Party MLAs who are opposed, and protesters including the B.C. Teachers’ Federation. What’s your take on the continued opposition to these projects?

DS: The First Nations groups who are against it should respect the majority. The majority of the communities along the Trans Mountain right-of-way support the project. A small group of first nations should not be able to stop the growth and development of other first nations if they want to participate.

TF: And the LNG Canada project too.

DS: Like Trans Mountain, all the communities along the right of way support the project. There are some community members from that area who are financed by environmental non-government organizations to set up camps and so forth, and I think that’s just the wrong way to do it. It sends a message that we’re against project development, when in fact we’re for it. It’s the only way we’re going to stop being on the government payroll.

TF: I’ve talked with Calvin Helin with Eagle Spirit Energy, which is working on an energy corridor to the B.C. coast, a similar route to the Northern Gateway corridor, as it was. Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has talked about an energy corridor, with power lines as well as gas and oil. What do you think about that approach?

DS: The nine producers on the Northern Gateway route were asked by our group if it was ever going to come up again. Most of them said it’s very doubtful, but they would support an Indigenous-led pipeline if it viable and approved.

The problem we have now is Bill C-48, the federal tanker ban for the North Coast. Eagle Spirit Energy is a great project. I think we could develop a lot of interest from the communities along that right of way. But the first thing we have to do is get around the tanker ban.

Calvin has suggested that they go around and use a port in Alaska. That’s another possibility.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureTrans Mountain pipeline

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Fresgo Inn chef/owner Walter Wolff in the kitchen of the self-serve restaurant in Whalley. “I’ve got no plan for the retirement,” he says. “My customers always ask me, but as long as I feel good, healthy, I like to come here.” (Photo: Tom Zillich)
VIDEO: Surrey’s Fresgo Inn chef keeps cooking comfort food as COVID cuts into customers

‘I’ve got no plan for the retirement,’ says 40-year Whalley pillar Walter Wolff

Shawn Canil, a Cloverdale-area resident, turns heads with the truck he’s decorated for Christmas. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Truck’s Christmas decorations lift spirits on Cloverdale man’s commute

‘When I see them smiling, I know it’s worth it,’ pickup driver Shawn Canil says

A reminder to students at Surrey’s Strawberry Hill Elementary to physically distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Surrey school district sends out 16 exposure notices overnight

INTERACTIVE TABLE: Search for schools, organize by exposure dates

At least one person received life-threatening injuries when a car collided with a semi truck in South Surrey on Friday morning. (Brenda Anderson photo)
VIDEO: South Surrey crash sends one to hospital in critical condition

Road closures in effect after collison between car and semi-truck

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Dec. 6 to 12

Mountain Day, Dewey Decimal System Day and Lard Day are all coming up this week

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
B.C. hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced a Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Apartments are seen lit up in downtown Vancouver as people are encouraged to stay home during the global COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer says provincewide data show the most important area B.C. must tackle in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is health inequity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Age, income among top factors affecting well-being during pandemic, B.C. survey shows

Among respondents earning $20,000 a year or less, more than 41 per cent reported concern about food insecurity

Chilliwack General Hospital. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress file)
Chilliwack mother upset about son’s alleged suicide attempt after hospital discharge

Rhonda Clough said 34-year-old son suffering with bipolar disorder should have been kept in hospital

Information about the number of COVID-19 cases in Abbotsford and other municipalities poses a danger to the public, the Provincial Health Services Authority says. (Photo: Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News)
More city-level COVID-19 data would jeopardize public health, B.C. provincial health agency says

Agency refuses to release weekly COVID-19 case counts, citing privacy and public health concerns

Victoria-based driving instructors are concerned for their own and the community’s safety with the continued number of residents from COVID hotspots in the Lower Mainland coming to the city to take their driving road tests. (Black Press Media file photo)
Students from COVID hotspots travel to Vancouver Island for driving tests

Union leader calls on government to institute stronger travel ban

Most Read