February 2020 – First Mover

With a mission to inform, empower, celebrate and advocate for British Columbia's current and aspiring business leaders, BCBusiness go behind the headlines and bring readers face to face with the key issues and people driving business in B.C.

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Page 34 of 79

UBC FIRST NATIONS AND INDIGENOUS STUDIES, GOVERNMENT OF B.C., CBC, GLOBE AND MAIL; IMAGES: ISTOCK FEBRUARY 2020 BCBUSINESS 35 south of what became a new "model city" for construction workers and operations personnel. Its name: Kitimat, the slightly different spelling chosen to reduce confu- sion between the two communities. Today, a signpost recognizes that the town sits on the traditional territory of the Haisla Nation. The 700 residents of Kitamaat Village occupy a sliver of land whose most noteworthy feature is a replica of the infamous G'psgolox totem pole that Canada gave to Sweden in 1927 for display in its Museum of Ethnography. (According to one story, the Swedes were told that the Haisla were a "dying race.") Returned in 2006, the pole is now stored in a local museum. Haisla carvers showed great generosity of spirit by creating a perfect copy for the museum in Stockholm, plus the one that now stands on the Kitamaat reserve. Despite these indignities, the Haisla have produced two of the province's most prominent First Nations leaders, Ellis Ross and Crystal Smith. Smith replaced Ross as chief councillor after he was elected BC Lib- eral MLA for Skeena in 2017. Both played key roles in negotiating First Nations approval for TC Canada's 670-kilometre Coastal Gas- Link pipeline and the LNG Canada joint ven- ture, whose partners are Korea Gas Corp., Mitsubishi Corp. of Japan, PetroChina and Malaysia's Petronas. Ross and Smith's motivation for get- ting involved is simple: to break the cycle of despair, drug abuse, domestic violence and victimhood. "The time for talk about reconciliation is past," Ross says. "It's time for First Nations leaders to stop playing the victim card and work with non-Indigenous businesses to provide economic opportu- nity to their members." But that doesn't mean the Haisla are sellouts. More than 25 years ago, they collaborated with the provincial government and international forestry companies to protect the nearby Kitlope Valley from logging. As eventful as 2019 was, "the process of economic reconciliation—even if it wasn't called that—was well underway before Prime Minister Trudeau announced the 94 resolutions of the Truth and Reconcili- ation report," Ross says. "First Nations in B.C. have signed hundreds of diverse agree- ments with non-Indigenous businesses in the past decade." Ross even suspended treaty negotiations —traditionally viewed with suspicion by many B.C. First Nations—with the provin- cial and federal governments to concen- trate on LNG. "It's a waste of resources to try and change the Indian Act," he says. "Working together with LNG Canada to identify problems and offer solutions is far more productive." The Haisla, however, weren't going to be pushed around. "We had to over- come terrible precedents," Ross recalls. "Companies would get their logging or road- building approvals from provincial minis- tries and expect us to rubber-stamp them. They would say, We have our approvals; you have to let us work here. That was not right." Smith was raised in Kitamaat Village by her grandparents, both of whom attended residential schools. "Our people have been very resilient in keeping our tra- ditional culture while adapting to modern life," she says. For Smith, LNG Canada offers educational opportunities that can lead to suc- cessful careers. "It's shocking to think that funding for trades edu- cation and training is not available from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada," she says. "The Indian Act has not allowed us to prosper; we will have to do it on our own." Besides labourers, the Haisla will need teachers, health care workers and technical staff to help secure their long-term future. "Capacity-building is about ensuring that we don't have to outsource everything," Smith says. "We'll help fund whatever jobs meet the needs of our community." In her view, " LNG Canada is economic reconcilia- tion for the Haisla." Smith sees the project as a win for all First Nations in B.C. "There's enormous excitement within our community right now," she says of the Haisla, 1,000 of whose 1,700 members lived off-reserve as of the 2016 census. "My boyfriend is from another First Nation, and he gets questions all the time about when they can come up and start work." Reaching a deal with LNG Canada wasn't easy. "We had over 80 meetings— 2004 Four Host First Nations protocol signed. The Lil'wat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh show support for holding the 2010 Winter Olympics on their territory in Vancouver, Squa- mish and Whistler. Today, nearly all local public events begin with an acknowledg- ment that they are taking place on the traditional land of the Coast Salish people 1997 Delgamuukw v. British Columbia leads to a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that defines Aboriginal title. The court uses and accepts oral history of the Gitxsan and Wet'suwet'en First Nations in the Nass Valley 2006 Great Bear Rain- forest announced. First Nations on the Central Coast and Haida Gwaii play a key role in preserving 6.4 million hectares of old-growth forest in north-central B.C. from logging. This protected habitat is named for the rare Kermode (spirit) bear "IT'S TIME FOR FIRST NATIONS LEADERS TO STOP PLAYING THE VICTIM CARD AND WORK WITH NON-INDIGENOUS BUSINESSES" – ELLIS ROSS, BC LIBERAL MLA AND FORMER HAISLA CHIEF COUNCILLOR

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