Chief Stewart Phillip on LNG: 'This has to become a popular struggle'

"The economy of this province is being built on the destruction of the Northeast," said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip. "The pipelines that are being contemplated by LNG will further destroy the North."

Two hundred and fifty people jammed into a meeting hall in downtown Vancouver on May 21, 2014 to learn about the plans of the global natural gas industry and the British Columbia government to massively expand the production and export of natural gas from the northeast of the province. Below is the speech delivered to the meeting by Grand Chief Stewart Philip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, transcribed and published with permission.

The meeting was organized by the Wilderness Committee and the Council of Canadians. Seven speakers delivered impassioned pleas to oppose what they see as economic, social and environmental madness underlying the whole natural gas scheme. View  the full, two hour recording of the public forum ‘LNG Pipedreams’ here. View the video recording of the presentation by Grand Chief Stewart Phillip here.

On June 8, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs organized a rally and march through the streets of downtown Vancouver under the theme, ‘Convergence 2014: Protecting our sacred waters from tar sands oil’. Read the Vancouver Observer report of that event here.

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Speech by Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs to the ‘LNG Pipedreams’ conference at SFU Harbour Centre in Vancouver,May 21 2014

I want to begin by acknowledging the Coast Salish peoples, namely the Musqueam, the Squamish and the Tsleil-Waututh. I would also like to thank the organizers in the Council of Canadians and Wilderness Committee for the kind invitation and bringing us all together to have this important conversation.

I’ve heard it said in the past that there is a certain advantage to being the final speaker. You simply thank everybody for coming and ask the last person to turn the lights out. (laughter) But the reason I came down tonight, is very much what the last speaker had to say.

I’ve been blessed with six adult children, and they in turn have blessed Joan and myself with fourteen incredibly beautiful grandchildren. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning, and that’s what energizes me to drive to all points of the compass, and all throughout the province of British Columbia. I’ve been involved in the issues of our people for the last forty years and I’ve seen an enormous amount of change and transformation in those last four decades. I’ve seen incredible change, yet at the same time, I’ve seen other things get worse.

I’m speaking of the great peril that Mother Earth finds herself in at this point in human history. And I very much believe, that, as a lot of scientists, and environmentalists and Indigenous spiritual leaders have said for a very long time now, that we are indeed at the tipping point.

We heard an hour or so ago the Premier get up, and of course the party line of the BC Liberals is “It’s a generational opportunity”. LNG is a generational opportunity. I don’t believe that for a moment.*

I believe what we are presented with is the most incredible challenge of our generation--to stand up, to mobilize, to organize, to defend the natural values that we all treasure and have taken for granted, for a very, very long time. We’ve all been blessed with the opportunity to live in one of the most beautiful spots on the planet. We’ve taken our children out into the wilderness and out into the bush, and we’ve enjoyed that natural beauty. We just assumed that it’s going to be there forever.

With what we witness here tonight and what we’ve heard, and what we’re learning, the only way that our grandchildren will enjoy the same legacy that was left to us is if we do what the last speaker talked about. We absolutely have to stand up, be counted, organize, mobilize, and fill rooms like this, over and over and over again, so that we are able to popularize what’s happening.

I think by and large, society has been completely taken in by the corporate, what we know as BS, the propaganda, the marketing, the bombardment of advertisements we hear, twenty four/seven. We heard the Premier talking about LNG being clean energy, a clean industry, and we know that is absolutely not the truth.

I think we need to be absolutely visible. We have to be heard, we have to be loud. We have to be proud. We have to be out in streets.

I know it’s a challenge to give up your time.

I was at a funeral of a very young person in Osoyoos just a few days ago. For those of you who don’t know, Chief Clarence Louie has been the chief there for 20 or 30 years. He talked about the responsibilities of leadership. He talked about what he described as “leadership time.” And he said leadership time is not nine to five, it’s not five days a week. Leadership time is when you contribute your own personal time to a cause, whatever that cause may be.

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