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A Public Relations War on all Fronts

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March 22, 2010

A Public Relations War on all Fronts

BC gov't aims to win hearts and minds, and open province to extractives

by Dawn Paley

Landscape in Wet'suwet'en Territory. The BC government is planning a PR push to sell extractive industry projects, many of them to be built on unceded territory. Photo: Dawn Paley

VANCOUVER—Beyond rhetoric about establishing British Columbia as a centre for innovation, among the most concrete strategies suggested in the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources 2010/11-2012/13 Service Plan are government-sponsored marketing campaigns to promote the benefits of the extractive industries.

The Service Plan, released in early March, outlines the BC government's primary strategies for the energy, mining, and oil and gas industries up to 2013. The public relations efforts articulated throughout the plan contradict the demands of Indigenous nations, in whose territories these projects would be built.

One of the objectives of the Service Plan is to increase the involvement of First Nations in the oil and gas industry. This includes "advising" First Nations on how resources can be developed in an "environmentally responsible manner" by strengthening links to industry and government and negotiating revenue-sharing agreements.

The government also aims to "facilitate involvement by local First Nations in oil and gas pipelines through the proposed Northern Energy Corridor between Kitimat and Prince George." Given the level of resistance to pipelines in Northern BC, and the fact that much of land mass to be traversed by the pipelines was never ceded by Indigenous people, it appears the BC government is on a collision course.

Toghestiy (Warner Naziel), a member of the Wet'suwet'en Nation, has extensively researched the Northern Gateway energy pipeline, a proposed part of an energy corridor which includes two Enbridge pipelines and a Kinder Morgan pipeline. The BC government has been promoting this energy project for over a decade.

"One hundred per cent of people [in my community] were completely against any type of development, especially anything in relation to this energy corridor," Toghestiy told the Vancouver Media Co-op in February.

Another objective of the Ministry's Service Plan is to create the social license for increased development of the extractive industries in BC. This can be achieved, according to the plan, by financing public relations and educational campaigns.

"Develop and implement focused promotional programs to inform British Columbians about opportunities in the energy, mining and natural gas industries," reads one strategy. "...Engage school students in a discussion of responsible energy, mineral and natural gas resource development," reads another.

"They're trying to promote a pipeline that is completely unwanted," said Macdonald Stainsby, an anti-tar sands activist with oilsandstruth.org.

"People who promote these kinds of developments in areas where the benefits will be little to none tend to use a war on all fronts—from friends and neighbours to glossy pamphlets to promises of money that will never arrive," he said.

Stainsby calls the proposed PR strategy proof that despite his green image, BC Premier Gordon Campbell still takes his marching orders from Ottawa and Washington. "These efforts are linked to increasing energy supply from the tar sands, rather than reducing energy supply," he said.

Enbridge, Kinder Morgan, Shell, Teck, and Imperial Metals Corporation have all faced fierce resistance, led by Indigenous land defenders and supported by allies locally and around the world.

Dawn Paley is a journalist based in Vancouver.

This article was originally published by the Vancouver Media Co-op.

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A PR War that could turn into a live action conflict

Thanks for the article Dawn. This same phenomenon is occurring around the province wherever there are valuable minerals on unceded territory. Just south of the Wet'suwet'en territory in the West Chilcotin there is a major battle building between the Tsilquot'in Nation and the Taseko Mining Company who are hell-bent on developing an open pit mine directly within Tsilquot'in territory. Not just a pit in the wilderness but directly under an existing lake called Fish Lake.

I've been following this story for close to a decade now and watched how the Campbell government has been maneuvering to try and gain that ground. It's the hottest story in the Cariboo-Chilcotin at this time. For details on it see my letter to the Quesnel Cariboo Observer posted to this site yesterday.

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