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Awakening the Giant: First Nations and the LNG 'Deal'

05/05/2015 11:18 am ET | Updated May 05, 2016

Few things scare politicians and corporate dragons. Yet, make no mistake who is number one on the shortlist: First Nations.

Nothing will more quickly brown-out political and corporate underpants than distant drums from First Nations.

In social and cultural philosophy, we often talk about Zeitgeist. "Spirit of the times." "Cultural shift." "Paradigm changes." However described, put your ear to the ground and you might hear it too.

Before Greece and Rome were empires, First Nations were the First Peoples of this continent, with established nations, governments and social maturity. Now, centuries after European colonialists nearly decimated these First Citizens, the moment may have resurrected. The time for First Nations is on the horizon. It's theirs to seize.

Not that Canadians know about its country's actual history. As progressive and enlightened people think they are, the abject ignorance of the genocide perpetrated upon the original citizens of this country has little, to no, recognition.

First Nations, wiped out so thoroughly, we proudly talk about "when Canada became settled," as if this were the actual beginning. The "Founders of this nation," as if nothing were here before white boys discovered the New World in 1497.

"The New World"? According to whom?

I'm not privy to how First Nations understand their moment. But I do know something about how the white man thinks, even centuries after they devised their first assault on First Nations civilization.

Bum deals. Gerrymandered treaties for land, and territories seized. Herded into reservations. Nothing -- five hundred years later -- has really changed.

Witness the "deals" attempted today by government and corporations, and you'll see the same chicanery and swindles. If learning how we first treated this country's Original Peoples doesn't make you want to pack up your suitcases and head back to the old country, this might.

As much as it will make your soul shrivel, imagine yourself as a deviant politician or LNG enthusiast. Or something along the lines of The Sopranos or Boardwalk Empire. Like listening to Tony Soprano or Nucky Thompson talking to other crime bosses, this is how it goes:

"Ok, boys," the discussion begins, "We know our efforts to push fossil fuel and make our last few billions has one monumental obstacle: First Nations opposition. Canadians -- even those who fancy themselves as 'activists' are no real problem. Hell, anyone ever hear of Walmart?" (Sound of laughter in boardroom.)

"Seriously," the political strategist continues. "And I mean seriously. It's First Nations who can finish us on this one. People are half-asleep with their jobs, raising their families, and playing with their toys. But if First Nations give us problems with getting the fracking done, running pipelines through forests and waterways, building the LNG facilities, even the most dimwitted of citizens might also be stirred in opposition to our plans. If so, no amount of TV ads showing squirrels and campers loving our pipelines and tarsands will work."

"So this is what we do. Let's first offer First Nations a load of money. And who better to make the announcement than the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation? Let's word it with the most slovenly of reverse psychology, yet shown to work time and again. Check this out," reading from a cue card:

"Our government has been very clear that for too long First Nations have been excluded from economic development and that needs to change." (Spoiler Alert to reader: This is the actual wording.)

Back to the corporate boardroom: "It's win/win, don't you see? Here's the genius: We make it contingent on them accepting our pipeline and LNG proposals! It's like you stole your neighbor's car and, years later, you offer him $10 as compensation, but in the deal he has to now give you his house!"

Exaggerated? No. In point of fact, understated.

It was reported in the latest article: "Prince Rupert First Nations Band Offered $1 Billion To Support LNG Project." The community backgrounder warns: "If the project is constructed, Lelu Island will be effectively off bounds to Lax Kw'alaams' members as the island will be largely cleared."

What else?

"Community members won't be able to harvest traditional plants and medicines, and as many as 431 culturally modified trees could be destroyed."

Worse? Yes.

About 120 kilometres of the pipeline would rest on the seabed, which, the document states, could negatively impact fish and their habitat, alter access to traditional fishing grounds and contaminate seafood through dredging.

I'd never assume to speak for First Nations. All I might quietly suggest is now is your time. And I believe new Canadians will be with you. Together, let's make politicians and corporations shake in their boots.