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When support for a B.C. pipeline starts to fray

Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs are shifting their tone on a pipeline project. In our latest newsletter, we chat with northwest B.C. reporter Matt Simmons about the LNG of it all
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Gitxsan Simgiigyat (Hereditary Chiefs) speak at a rally in Smithers, B.C.


“Our way of life has been subverted by the Canadian government.”

That’s what Gitxsan Hereditary Chief Molaxan Norman Moore said outside the Supreme Court building in Smithers, B.C., in early March, as Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs gathered to demonstrate support for Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Dsta’hyl — who was arrested in October 2021 and found guilty of criminal contempt this February.

Northwest B.C. reporter Matt Simmons watched them on that cold morning, before interviewing Gitxsan Chiefs to make sense of it all.

Unlike Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline through their territory, Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs did sign agreements with the province in support of the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission project.

But 10 years later, as the promise of a new era for liquified natural gas (LNG) exports meets increasing skepticism, Gitxsan leaders are shifting their tone.

Buy-in from Indigenous communities to extract resources from their lands has been dubbed “economic reconciliation” — LNG could redress historic colonial wrongdoings — which is used by government and industry alike to garner support for these projects.

On paper, Gitxsan leaders still vouch for the pipeline. But it’s their criticism of government conduct that marks a shift from their previous position on the fossil fuel industry: they want to see a judicial review of these injunctions that often favour corporate interest by way of RCMP enforcement.

“We are forbidden from protesting and going in front and stopping it,” Molaxan told Matt in an interview. “They’re treating us as wards of the government. They’re treating us as minions.”
 

Sign attached to the back of a truck reads: "Stop! Hands off our lands / No more RCMP C-IRG"


Matt says the devastating wildfires, floods and droughts with biodiversity loss in the past 10 years have also brought the reality of climate change into stark focus for communities.

“The narrative of LNG being a climate saviour has largely been debunked and communities can’t help but weigh the environmental and economic risks of building pipelines and LNG plants against the potential economic benefits, which are on shaky ground as countries around the world double down on climate commitments,” he said.

Gitxsan leaders are still willing to work together with the province — but not without respect and dialogue.

“The new LNG sector is changing northern B.C. landscapes in major ways,” Matt told me. “I’ll be here to document what those changes look like, for ecosystems and communities.”

Take care and keep the dialogue going, 

Karan Saxena
Audience engagement editor
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Photo: Andrew McArdle / The Starfish Canada

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A weekend with inspiring young climate leaders


A big part of my role at The Narwhal is to make sure our public-interest journalism, which is entirely free for all to read, actually reaches people to keep them informed about critical environmental issues. One key demographic media outlets across the board struggle to reach? Youth.

So, when The Starfish Canada reached out and asked me to attend their Youth Environmental Changemakers Summit, I knew I had to head up to Skwxwú7mesh territory to see how young people were getting their hands dirty in the climate space — and how I’d be able to connect with fellow Gen Z-ers in better ways.

Young people know this all too well: rarely are they seen as stakeholders of the future they will inherit. And it’s not often either that they’re given the chance to come together and seek the solutions they need to navigate, and live in, that markedly different future.

In sessions that grounded them with Skwxwú7mesh knowledge, I watched as they contended with some of the biggest existential threats their communities face. From confronting palpable climate anxiety to demanding accountability from fossil fuel giants, they’re doing it all.

It was an inspiring weekend that has me thinking about all the ways we might be able to amplify the work of up-and-coming climate leaders.

Do you know any young folks doing the hard work? Send them this newsletter and tell them to reach out — I want to hear about what they’re up to and how our journalism can serve them better.

— Karan


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When you’re brainstorming a better future for our natural world. Tell your friends to sign up for our newsletter to stay informed about all the possible solutions!

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