Sunday July 03, 2016
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Joe Dion sits in an unusual position.
As the CEO of Frog Lake Energy Resources Corporation, he runs a company that helps his Alberta First Nation profit from oil.
But as a member of Canada’s Aboriginal community, he agrees with groups like B.C.’s Tsleil-Waututh Nation, which is fighting the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline.
Dion says this position makes him, and other oil producing First Nations, perfectly positioned to both get pipelines built and improves the lives of Aboriginal Canadians.
They are calling on the federal government to fulfil its promise of a “new relationship” with Canada’s first people by negotiating a new treaty that would allow First Nations, Inuit, and Métis to own, and therefore benefit directly from, Canada’s resources.
In light of this week’s decision by the Federal Court of Appeal, striking down the approval of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline for lack of consultation with First Nations, the federal government could be very keen to agree to a First Nations National Energy Strategy.
The full interview is available in the audio player above. The following portions have been edited for clarity and length.
What is a First Nations National Energy Strategy?
It’s a proposal to the federal government that we put in The Globe and Mail last weekend, asking for a sit down, a discussion, on how we can proceed to move our resources, primarily oil, to tidewater, which is sorely needed right now. There’s an impasse happening in the country, you’ve got folks for an against these projects, these pipelines, and we thought as First Nations producers, that we should get into discussion and make an attempt to break the gridlock.
“There’s an impasse happening in the country, you’ve got folks for an against these projects, these pipelines, and we thought as First Nations producers, that we should get into discussion and make an attempt to break the gridlock.” – Joe Dion
I think it’s probably safe to say that most listeners associate First Nations with the opponent side when it comes to, particularly pipelines, but oil and gas projects in general. How are you going to get groups like B.C.’s Tsleil-Waututh Nation, which is fighting the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion in court, how are you going to get groups like that on board?
Well I know the Tsleil-Waututh folks, Chief Leonard George is a friend of mine, I’ve discussed this matter with him. I believe we can. I support them in their opposition to the pipeline going into their waters, Burrard Inlet, I think it’s an unsafe place to put a pipeline in, I totally agree with them, I’ve already mentioned that to them. I think there are better places to put that pipeline.
So, I think this is where we need to get some movement, with the proponents, with the First Nations, with the governments, that there’s a way to get these things done. And for anyone to stay stiff-necked or stay on one proposal alone, I don’t think that’s going to work.
Your nation, Frog Lake, you can make money from oil and gas. But some of the coastal First Nations, they say that oil and gas, and pipelines and this kind of development, could threaten their traditional livelihood, particularly fisheries. How do you reconcile those competing interests?
There’s world-class examples of how the two can live together. Oil exploration offshore, like Norway, there’s a world-class example of having both livelihoods continue. Fishing and oil development. I think we can do this here. I think what’s needed here, is an economic piece. A powerful economic piece that these First Nations can see. And that’s where we come across, where we come forward on if we’re going to do this, there’s got to be First Nations ownership of pipelines, there’s got to be ownership of terminals, I really truly believe that if these terminals are going to be sitting in the coastal waters of B.C., or even New Brunswick, they should be owned by First Nations.
“There’s got to be First Nations ownership of pipelines, there’s got to be [First Nations] ownership of terminals.” – Joe Dion
At the end of the day, the revenues from those terminals should be going to the communities, who need this revenue piece, and when it crosses lands across B.C., and across Canada, we’re talking those revenues should be going to communities like Attawapiskat, First Nations who are destitute right now.
Click the “play” button above to hear the full interview.