Page Fourteen

"Don't Need a Weather Man to Know Which Way the Wind Blows"

A Series of Innocuous Blogs for Vainglorious Edification.

Inherent Worth and Dignity
October 9, 2007

One of the most encouraging aspects of Dogwood Initiative’s campaign to end trans-coastal tanker traffic off the BC coast, is the assemblage of First Nations councils standing firm on the issue.  Dogwood is hard at work getting the word out that the petroleum industry wants to build pipelines, refineries, shipping terminals and infrastructure to get tar sands crude across BC and onto coastal tankers.  According to a seminar attended last spring, Dogwood’s defense against this potential environmental disaster is multi-faceted.  But one of its most effective methods is to enlist the good will of First Nations’ people and their desire to see “no harm done.”  The principle is that even small changes in First Nations lands can cause irreparable harm.   Big oil’s plans to build tanker terminals in BC waters makes the potential for calamity obvious.  But Dogwood points to the dangers of shipping any oil (foreign or Canadian) along the BC coast.  Any tanker passing through inland waterways endangers not just First Nations, but Provincial, public  and private lands.

Dogwood’s initiative is a well thought out one.  They do not challenge the petroleum industry outright via law suits or court cases but instead point to the potential for those things.  BC and Canada in general has had a pretty good environmental track record in part because they recognize the inherent worth and dignity of First Nations communities.  There are clear contradictions.  Some First Nations have elected to encourage development to combat problems with isolation, economic insecurity, education and health care.  But Canadians have legislated support for the sovereign principle of First Nations lands.  It is their land to choose to do what they want with.  If a developer, oil company or Wal Mart wants to build on sovereign lands they must first obtain the legal authority to do so.   They cannot march in and start clearing forests, building roads, or traversing in commercial vehicles without first getting permission from First Nations authorities.

The seminal concept in law and rights and respect for culture is the foundation of Dogwood’s campaign.  Oil companies will not be allowed to build pipelines or roads or tanker terminals off the BC coast without first obtaining permission from those who steward the lands and seas.  It is perhaps the most powerful concept in all the environmental movement.  The sovereignty of First Nations is a prime example.  We have learned to respect the rights of original people whose cultures have lived on these lands for centuries.  We recognize the inherent dignity and worth of original culture - their hunting rights, fishing rights, tribal customs, native art forms, language.  We recognize that before we tread upon those inherent rights we must humbly ask permission of their councils, tribal leaders or elders.  Asking for permission prior to changing another culture is one of man’s hardest learned lessons and greatest acts of altruism.  We have learned that before making changes or appropriating  someone else’s culture - we must obtain their consent.  Without this guiding principle, you can be sure there will be pipelines across BC and giant tankers ferrying millions of barrels of oil up and down the coastline.

We strongly support the Dogwood initiative to halt tanker traffic off the BC coast.  We support their approach utilizing First Nations consent requirements to build a legal wall against deep pocketed big oil and business.  We should be aware that with billions of dollars at stake the battle will be hard fought.  The wealthy oil industry will attempt to buy consent and obscure the environmental hazards.  Our first line of defense is following our most enlightened principles - the sovereignty of original people and lawful respect for their inherent worth and dignity.