Chief Says Rejecting Development Costs Everyone
Haisla Chief counsellor, Ellis Ross – photo 250News
Prince George, B.C. – The Chief of the Haisla Nation has presented a personal view on economic development, and it presented a number of unanswered questions and some surprisingly frank comments.
In his keynote address to the Natural Resource Forum, Chief Ross said he is fully committed to creating a better future for his people, “I’m starting to understand the impacts a project can have, not only on Aboriginals, but on a region, a province, on a nation. It doesn’t seem to make sense that one part of the population succeeds while another portion doesn’t. Looking back over a hundred years, that is what happened, we cannot duplicate that going forward.”
Chief Ross says all Canadians, whether they are Aboriginal or not, take for granted the services that are provided to them, such as health care, and those services are paid for by revenues from economic development. “When you drive on a road that is managed by B.C., that (road) is paid for by revenues. When you have a social safety net of welfare and UIC, it all comes from revenues.”
Then there’s the issue of Aboriginal Rights and Title “Good concept, over 200 court cases won by Aboriginals in the courts of BC and Canada but has it provided results? If it has, can you duplicate those results with 203 separate Bands in BC that may want something different or have different protocols on how to achieve what they want? Those 203 Bands also have separate views on what meaningful consultation can look like.” He says it’s almost an impossible task to develop a template and those complicated issues are why B.C.’s economy is not growing.
Chief Ross says even if the issues could be solved for one Band, that doesn’t mean there would be a solution for their neighbouring Band. Chief Ross expressed real concerns about First Nations being able to work together and cooperating with each other “This idea that First Nations respect each other and love to share with each other, that’s a myth. It always has been a myth. I’m not afraid to admit that my people hate my neighbours, always have, always will, our history is warring and killing and raiding for wealth for their woman, and maybe next month have a feast with them, that’s our history, our people still remember that.”
Chief Ross says the walls between First Nations have to be broken down “We have to get rid of the have and have not notion between First Nations, how do we work together, because the pie is big enough for everybody. ”
Then there’s a leadership problem. He says when the Province and Industry come to speak with First Nations, the First Nations aren’t clear on who among their own ranks, is the leader. “Right now it is unelected, versus Hereditary versus elected and nobody is answering this question. If Aboriginals don’t answer this question the courts will, and if the courts have to answer this question, they will provide you with an unclear direction on how to achieve the answer, they won’t give you the answer.” He says the irony is that if the battle for leadership is not resolved, it is the membership of the band that will suffer the consequences of continued poverty, unemployment and Indian Affairs programming.
Chief Ross says saying yes to economic development means First Nations will have the money to fill the gaps in services not provided by other sources. Yet, those who oppose economic development are, for the most part, those who have no stake in what’s happening in his community “When you are opposing economic development outright, without looking at my issues, why don’t you come and give me a solution? why don’t you come to a funeral of Band member who committed suicide? And don’t be the loudest voice in the room when more health cuts come down, or welfare cuts come down, or UIC cuts come down, because they are coming. Without revenues, services get cut back.”
He says there is no truth to the belief that if a project is approved or not, only one party is affected “One project does go ahead, or doesn’t go ahead, we all get affected, guarantee you. My situation is probably worse because I have to go back to a community with 60% unemployment, poverty and suicides. But we will all get affected, British Columbians, Aboriginals, we will all get affected and we will feel it in budget cuts, because that’s what it all boils down to. It’s a paper exercise in budget cuts for services.”