By Chris Sankey, June 29, 2023
Canadians need to be made aware of the ways in which Non-Governmental Organizations are interfering in indigenous participation in Canada’s natural resource sector.
These organizations – which are almost all foreign entities with Canadian branches – hire activists and promote misleading commentary about Canada’s oil and gas sector and First Nations’ interest in development. These organizations, which include the Sierra Club, Stand Earth, World Wildlife Federation, and Tides Foundation, have garnered a great deal of sympathetic attention from the national and international media.
But in my experience of the provincial North, there are dozens of NGOS funded by both government and interest groups that actively befriend indigenous communities, groups, and urban organizations with the goal of using the community’s political capital to block and stall the development of Canada’s Natural resources, particularly the oil and gas sector.
Canada’s unwillingness and inability to prevent interest groups from interfering and blocking our natural resource development harms Canada’s international standing among our energy starved democratic allies and stops us from opening new markets for our energy products.
These campaigns, which extend to our mining, fishing, and forestry sectors, have undermined the livelihoods of thousands of everyday Canadians. Locally, the turmoil caused by these interventions has ripped apart relationships within and between indigenous and non-indigenous communities. When the projects are halted, these intruders leave the North and return to their comfortable lives in the southern cities, leaving indigenous communities to deal with the lasting damage. These biased ENGOs have torn apart countless families and friendships in order to impose their views on communities.
The recent public inquiry into anti-Alberta energy campaigns details the situation this way:
“ENGOs and many Indigenous spokespeople leverage these special rights of First Nations to oppose pipelines and oil and gas development while other First Nations leaders decry the opportunities threatened or lost by the failure of infrastructure projects to proceed. This creates serious divisions between various First Nations communities and within communities.”
Non-Government activists and organizations have influenced our municipalities, provinces, and civil elections. Pro-development indigenous communities are intentionally ignored but the activists love show boding, wearing cedar hats and attire for photo-ops from nations that might be opposed to oil and gas development. They befriend young people within pro-development nations and pay them to protest oil and gas and then assert, usually incorrectly, that the vast majority of community members oppose these life changing opportunities.
The activists flash their video cameras and smart phones. They make documentaries about communities fighting amongst themselves and with the RCMP, industry and government. Most Canadians do not realize that these activists, often hired by foreign interest groups, bring shame to our culture and communities.
While a select few indigenous people from some of our nations have greatly benefited from their involvement with the environmentalists, many of their families and friends struggle to make ends meet. They live in poverty with little hope for the future. We have deep scars from the humiliation our people go through as non-Indigenous activists’ videotape and misrepresent our own families and communities.
I say this to these organizations and activists: the gig is up. While you pay small sums to our youth to join protests, most of our people continue to suffer economically and socially. Indigenous leaders are now questioning these ecological protestors and they will be calling you out more often.
These activists’ actions have not helped First Nations. They damage Indigenous unity. I have personally received numerous requests calling on me to help them “shut down” Canada. It is appalling. I am furious about the audacity of a handful indigenous and non-indigenous people claiming to love our people and communities who then sit back and watch as we tear each other part.
These activists, in this regard, are little different than the old Indian agents who, believing that they knew what was best for us, brought pain, despair, and shame to our people. These neo-colonial activists must be stopped.
First Nations people did not elect or select these NGOs or the individuals who now try to dictate their policy. I feel misled by the sheer number of individuals associated with environmental groups, all of whom claim to be there ‘for us’ while they merely use us to push their own agenda.
We do not need outsiders, once more, telling First Nations people what to do.
Chris Sankey is a prominent Indigenous business leader, a Senior Fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and a former elected Councillor for the Lax Kw’alaams Band.