Letters to the editor 

A First Nations perspective on IPPs

The polarization of B.C. voters deserves comment from a sector of British Columbia electors that is not regularly highlighted: First Nations. This is important as British Columbia and First Nations strive to reconcile Crown and Aboriginal Title.

In recent elections In-SHUCK-ch Nation supported the candidate, and not the party. We chose this course in a period of time when First Nations issues were not as well defined as they are rapidly becoming. Since the last general election in B.C., however, treaties, land and resource management planning, forest and range agreement renewals and, more recently, the Liberals' commitment to recognize, in law, the fact of Indian Title are beginning to redefine our place in the Canadian political and social order.

Central to our economic future is the economic potential represented by run of river hydro projects. This was recognized some time ago by one (of our three) In-SHUCK-ch communities, Douglas First Nation, when they established a business relationship with Cloudworks Energy. The first of their projects are due to come on stream within months. These will benefit Cloudworks, obviously, but also Douglas and In-SHUCK-ch.

And, it's been demonstrated to me, in the construction phase, that it benefits the province and the country.

We recognize the opportunity. We want to share the costs, the risks and the benefits. We've selected treaty lands that are strategic sites necessary for construction of run of river projects. In some streams, the B.C. Liberals have agreed to our request to impose water reservations that protect our interests as we work to complete treaty negotiations.

Now, we appreciate that there are environmental concerns inherent in practically any form of construction, particularly IPP projects. Some streams are places of spiritual importance to my people. And, fish are central to our culture and identity as a people. Therefore, these developments will only proceed with complete regard for what we see as appropriate.

That said, opponents of IPPs must know that if we deem it important to pay our own way in society, then they must also know that we have considered the full cost, including environmental ones. They therefore should not presume to speak for us.

We believe that it's entirely within our ability to determine whether such projects, on balance, can proceed. We're confident that we can look after our own interests and the environmental movement should note that we also believe that this will reflect the greater public interest.

We disagree with the NDP position that a moratorium should be placed on IPPs. To do so, would be to deny us the opportunity to finally begin to take our full and willing place in Canada on our own terms.

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