I want to tell you about a strong First Nations woman who overcame immense adversity on her Reserve many years ago.
She told me that Greenpeace and an oil company came to her people to promise prosperity in exchange for their support. The Oil company wanted land access to build a pipeline and export terminal. They promised jobs and royalties through land-use agreements. On the other hand, Greenpeace conveyed to hereditary and elected Chiefs that these oil companies were lying. Similarly, Greenpeace pledged to create oppourtunity, employment, and protect tourism.
Both came armed with promises. Decisions were made. And a people laid in ruin once the consequences consummated. Greenpeace initially told her people that if they agreed to make The Great Bear Rainforest an ecologically-protected area, tourists would come in droves. The Reserve's hereditary and elected Chiefs drank the Greenpeace Kool-Aid.
They rejected the oil company's proposition and worked with Greenpeace and the provincial government to have The Great Bear Rainforest declared an ecological reserve. Greenpeace left the area and the money, nor did the tourists didn't come. As a result, the Reserve suffered under the social burdens of an 80% unemployment rate, from a high crime rate, addiction and suicide.
She told me that Greenpeace and the provincial government lied to her people and used them. While The Great Bear Rainforest lies on the ancient hunting and burial grounds of First Nations people. After it was declared an ecological reserve, First Nations were no longer allowed access to the land their ancestors hunted and gathered on for centuries.
They were locked from their land.
This lady told me that her family did better than most. She had a job in town cleaning hotel rooms, and her husband worked seasonally with a Logging Company. However, they didn't make a lot of money but managed to get by with two young sons. One day at work, her husband was seriously injured and later became addicted to painkillers and opioids. Falling into a deep depression, he would later take his life, leaving her to take care of their two young sons.
Being a widow with young children was very difficult, but for a while, she managed. However, with no money for daycare and no one close to home to help take care of her boys, she quit her job and went on welfare. She later became depressed under the heavyweight of addiction and despair. With no job, her life lacked purpose. Like many women in the area, she considered turning to prostitution to support her young family.
She knew that this was dangerous because she lived on the Highway of Tears. The Highway of Tears constitutes a 700 km portion of Highway 16 in British Columbia, where many indigenous women disappear or are murdered.
One day oil companies came back promising jobs, money, benefits and royalties for land use. Everybody was nervous and did not trust the oil companies, but the Chiefs and band Council negotiated a contract. There was a job advertised for a Camp cleaner. To clean the camps where construction workers would live. She had the qualifications and experience.
She said, "I applied for the job and went to the interview; it was the lowest point of my life. I had no self-confidence; I couldn't look my interviewer in the eye, and I was ashamed of how I looked and felt. Despite my lack of self-confidence, they decided to give me a chance. I was at the lowest point in my life, and here was somebody I was warned to stay away from. Yet, they gave me a chance."
"The next day, and for the first time in almost five years, I got up early in the morning and went to work," she said. "It felt good to have a purpose again. To earn my own money, build my confidence, and to support my beautiful boys."
You will be happy to know that Joanne is now a camp supervisor in charge of 8 other cleaners. Drug and alcohol-free, she and her boys are doing well. However, not everyone can say they overcame such adversity. Many succumb to the pervasive social issues of abject poverty, corruption, and consultations premised on lies.
The myth that all First Nations are anti-pipeline and deject resource development holds serious consequences that devastate families and communities.
First Nations are losing hundreds of millions of dollars from land-use agreements and royalties that fail to come to fruition because of Trudeau's anti-oil and gas policies.
One of the benefits of having a growing following is the opportunity to earn people's trust. Often, correcting misinformation personally or providing the platform for others to speak to their experiences does the trick.
The perception that all First Nations are against oil and gas development is a lie that I correct almost daily. In partnership with First Nations and Metis, reconciliation is more than mere fiction. It becomes a reality. The West produces oil with the highest environmental standards, the highest human rights standards, and labour standards globally when we all work together harmoniously.
When we develop resources responsibly together, we can reclaim the land responsibly.
We must continue to work together with our indigenous brethren to make life better for everyone. To generate growth, create jobs, and protect livelihoods for generations to come.