Forces of yes: Positive affirmations for Pacific salmon and healthy watersheds

👤Rob Budde 🕔Aug 01, 2016

Discussions around natural gas obtained through fracking and carried by pipelines across the province to terminals on the coast, where it is liquefied for export, have been draped around arguments about the region’s economic wellbeing: We need the projects for the strength of the GDP, to get resources to market, for jobs, for families etc., etc.

It’s a debate framed by absolutes: jobs versus no jobs, prosperity versus poverty, yes versus no. It spawned the infamous phrase “the forces of no,” coined by BC Premier Christy Clark in an effort to vilify resistance to these industrial projects. In speaking with those standing in the way of these developments, indigenous land stewards like Freda Huson and Goot Ges, I see these “forces” as much more positive and industry’s arguments based on a false dichotomy.

When I mentioned the phrase “no pipelines” to Goot Ges in so-called Prince Rupert, she replied “yes to salmon.” A single mom, she is standing tall for the future of her children and for the safety of the land she so clearly loves. Her mother comes from the Nisga’a Nation, the village of Skulls from the house of Txaatanlax’hatkw. Her father is Tsimshian from Metlakatla and Haida from Old Massett.

Her cause spans the Northwest and is more involved with a continued assertion than any negation: yes to traditional ways of life, forms of harvest and environmentally sustainable practices; yes to an assertion of First Nations’ land rights; yes to a vibrant economy that already exists and has existed for thousands of years.

Pipelines and liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals are the forces saying no to these life-giving practices: no to clean water in rivers and along the coast; no to people in the region who value the land in favour of those who value corporate bottom lines; no to those who refuse to take action to stabilize a rapidly changing climate. Capitalism, hand in hand with colonialism, has a long history of selling destruction in the guise of salvation. LNG is in this tradition.

I would hope that others would stand and say yes to salmon. Stand with Goot Ges,

Lax Kw’alaams Hereditary Chief Yahaan, and Donald Wesley and Gwishawaal, Ken Lawson, both of the Gitwilgyoots Tribe of the Lax Kw’alaams. Stand with all those that make their livelihood from one of the largest salmon runs in the world. Stand with those protecting the long-term health of the environment, an environment that means everything to the region’s economy.

The traditional economy is referenced in the Lelu Island Declaration signed by hereditary chiefs: “Our ancestral knowledge, supported by modern science, confirms this area is critical to the future abundance of the wild salmon our communities rely on. It is our right and our responsibility as First Nations to protect and defend this place. It is our right to use this area without interference to harvest salmon and marine resources for our sustenance and commercially in support of our livelihoods.”

Pipelines crossing sensitive watersheds, terminals on the coast interfering with eelgrass flat nurseries, compressor stations, cutlines, roads and work camps will bring a miniscule return for northern BC next to the damage that it will reap.

Perhaps nowhere on this planet is there a better opportunity to preserve ecosystems and transition to sustainable energy sources. Clean water, healthy forests, thriving salmon and independent, strong communities are worth far more than a fist full of industry dollars. Say yes to salmon.