A natural resource industry lobby group started in Kitimat is looking to open a Smithers area chapter.
The North Matter held a meeting at the Sunshine Inn in Smithers to explain what they do and to gauge interest in creating a board to run a chapter for the Bulkley Valley. About 50 showed up to hear Share BC founding director Steve Simons, The North Matters chair Dave Johnston from Kitimat, local meeting organizer Dennis MacKay, and Share BC chair, retired forester and former Lytton mayor Chris O’Connor make their case.
Johnston made it clear a major motivator is countering groups hoping to curtail projects, including the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline planned to be built from northeast B.C. through to Kitimat. He hopes to see chapters spring up across northern B.C., describing that area as anything north of Hope.
“It’s time to start getting louder than the other side. We can’t sit back and take this because it’s frankly disgusting,” Johnston told the crowd.
He pointed to the Canadian postal workers’ union coming out in support of the Unist’ot’en camp and Gitdumden blockade set up after an interim court injunction that were blocking Coastal GasLink workers from accessing areas south of Houston.
“All the postal workers in Kitimat support LNG,” he said, asking the crowd to put pro-LNG messages on mailboxes.
He also attacked the U.S.-based support for protesters, saying it was important for local backers of industries like forestry, mining, and oil and gas to organize and unify their voices.
Johnston took offense when asked by The Interior News if the group was looking to join with any Bulkley Valley Indigenous resource industry supporters, as there did not appear to be any Wet’suwet’en or Gitxsan people in the room.
“You’re using divisive language,” he said.
He had earlier pointed to money the Office of the Wet’suwet’en got the last several years from the environmental group Tides Canada, and accused North Coast NDP MLA Jennifer Rice of divisive language when she tweeted that hereditary chiefs make decisions outside of elected band boundaries.
“I think we’re all Canadians and we need to work together and act like Canadians. It’s not about your race, it’s not about your religion, it’s not about your sex,” said Johnston.
Johnston said the group did talk with the Haisla environment manager and the Lax Kw’alaams.
O’Connor said having lived in the southern Interior and Smithers, Bulkley Valley communities were “way ahead” of a lot of areas when it came to relations with Indigenous groups. His role as chair of Share BC is to help The North Matters organize and communicate, he said.
“This is not the final recruitment. Maybe we have to find different ways to reach out,” said O’Connor.
He added that First Nations needed to figure out the different views between elected and hereditary leaders.
“This is something First Nations communities need to figure out internally … I would encourage them [The North Matters] to reach out,” said O’Connor.
“If we can make it easier for them to reconcile those two views of the world, we should,” he added.
The North Matters does not yet have a website, but has a Facebook page.