First Nations Traditions and Culture
For millennia, B.C.’s coast has been home to First Nations whose lives have been shaped by the ocean and its bounty. Salmon continues to play a vital role in their sustenance and sacred ceremonies. Today, First Nations communities continue to depend on the ocean for food and spiritual inspiration. Degradation of the ocean’s health from offshore oil and gas exploration and extraction would have a negative impact on the many First Nations communities. Consequently, a recent report released by the federal government stated that 100 percent of the 70 bands involved in interviews voiced opposition to lifting the moratorium.
The area of the coast under consideration for an offshore oil and gas industry form part of the traditional territories of several First Nations, including the Haida, Tsimshian, Haisla, Heiltsuk, Nuxhalt, Oweekeno, Nuuchahnulth and several Kwakiutl speaking Nations.
While there remains a jusridictional dispute between the provincial and federal governments over the coastal waters between the tip of Haida Gwaii and the north end of Vancouver Island, it is the First Nations and other coastal people who will be most directly affected by the risks associated with offshore oil and gas development. In order to begin to understand what an offshore oil and gas industry would mean to Coastal First Nations communities, cultures and livelihoods, a report was commissioned by the Coastal First Nations in the spring of 2004. The report concludes with four key findings:
“1) there are significant environmental risks with offshore oil and gas development; 2) there will be few jobs and limited economic benefits to coastal communities; 3) Canada’s regulatory regime does not meet international standards; and 4) the moratorium review process is deficient.”