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Ellis Ross: Leonardo DiCaprio is wrong — the Coastal GasLink Pipeline is good for Indigenous people

An open letter to a misinformed movie star
CGL-Section8-Pipe
Coastal GasLink construction crews lower in a section of pipe along Section 8 near Kitimat.

Dear Leo,

I was confused and alarmed when I read your Tweet claiming “militarized raids” have been ordered against protestors participating in illegal and dangerous blockades opposing the Coastal GasLink project in Northern British Columbia.

But then I thought, given your busy schedule as a Hollywood movie star, you may not have learned the full story behind this transformative, environmentally sustainable project. So please, allow me to fill you in.

My people and many other First Nations communities, leaders, and elders, including 20 democratically elected Chiefs whose bands support the Coastal Gas Link project, are proud to champion British Columbia’s world-class resource sector.

These leaders have been elected by their communities, as I was when I fought to bring liquified natural gas (LNG) development to our province. I suppose you haven’t thought about how in siding with the unelected hereditary chiefs opposed to the Coastal Gas Link project, you are ignoring the democratic rights of thousands of First Nations people?

Although the democratic case for the Coastal Gas Link project is strong, I feel the need to outline for you why so many First Nations leaders and communities support developing our resources safely and sustainably.

First, by saying yes to natural gas development, my Northern British Columbia community was able to lift itself out of poverty. After decades of suffering, our community is now thriving. “Help wanted” signs have replaced foreclosure signs, jobs are available for all who are prepared to work hard, and our local infrastructure is among the best in Canada.

Employment creates purpose, stability, and meaning. More importantly, a good job and everything that comes with it gives young people something to strive for.

I’m comforted knowing my children and grandchildren will enjoy more opportunities than I did because my community chose jobs, growth, and environmentally sustainable resource development.

Secondly, LNG allows First Nations communities to lead the way in displacing heavier carbon emissions from abroad. First Nations people — myself included — care deeply about protecting our environment and doing our part to curb the impacts of climate change. Our people have long been strong stewards of the environment.

That’s why the state-of-the-art export facility in Kitimat uses cutting-edge industrial processes and the most sophisticated hardware on the planet. We’ve also partnered with LNG Canada to reclaim local salmon habitat and regenerate traditional fish stocks.

We are proud that the Coastal Gas Link project has allowed us to punch above our weight in reducing global emissions. So why are you trying to take that from us?

Thirdly, the revenues from resource development offer First Nations a path to economic self-determination — a future free from the cold, damp heavy blanket of the welfare state. British Columbia is the most environmentally conscious jurisdiction to extract resources from in the world. Full stop. We have the strictest environmental standards and our clean products like LNG help reduce global emissions from dirtier jurisdictions like China, India, and Russia.

I applaud your commitment to conservation and tackling climate change. That’s something that you and I have in common. However, I’m afraid you are terribly misinformed about the events unfolding here in British Columbia.

In the name of “conservation” you are, in reality, harming the hard-working people — Indigenous and non-Indigenous — who are leading the way on providing environmentally sustainable solutions for my province.

So please, do not use your considerable profile to block progress — or further fan the flames of division in British Columbia. We have come too far and accomplished too much to turn back now.

And please know that my band chose to embrace LNG.

In fact, we fought for it. We chose a path of productivity and progress. We chose pride in who we are as a community and what we can still become. We have an environmentally sound, sustainable, technologically-advanced, high-value industry and a safe, clean, happy, and healthy community that I have been privileged to represent in the British Columbia legislature since 2017.

But don’t take my word for it, come see for yourself.

On behalf of all British Columbians, I invite you to visit my home, Kitimaat Village, and tour the state-of-the-art LNG Canada liquified natural gas plant. It would be my pleasure to show you the incredible benefits of this natural resource and to introduce you to some of the amazing people who proudly work every day to fuel the economies of the world with our clean, environmentally friendly products.

There is much more to British Columbia than you have seen on your movie sets or Twitter feed. So, I hope you accept my invitation — and please choose to fly commercial and not on a private jet when you visit. We must all do our part to control emissions.

Sincerely,

Ellis Ross, MLA
BC Liberal leadership candidate


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