Hollywood celebrities

Hollywood Celebrities Don’t Speak For Indigenous Peoples: Opinion

The development of our natural resources has enabled many Indigenous communities to thrive in economic reconciliation

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Over the past two years, Hollywood has been increasingly involved in the development of Canada’s natural resources. Whether through tweet or promoting a country, a number of Hollywood actors have been clear in their opposition to the development of indigenous resources. Many activist actors have said they believe that the industry “funds the violation of Indigenous rights”. But that’s just not true. Spreading this invention is misinformation.

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When Hollywood denounces the development of natural resources, it condemns many of our communities to remain in poverty and to continue to depend on the government. Our communities are trying to get away from that. The development of our natural resources has enabled many Indigenous communities to thrive in economic reconciliation and true self-determination.

The Haisla Nation in northern British Columbia is a successful example of how Indigenous development and ownership of natural resource projects can lead to a better future. Haisla has recently started developing a Health center and just opened a youth centerboth made possible through the community’s commitment to LNG projects. The country’s recent announcement of its own Cedar LNG project means the future for the Haisla Nation is even brighter. Do Hollywood actors really want to oppose the Haisla nation and its energy projects? If they had succeeded, the health and youth center would not be possible.

The bulk of the celebrity campaign is to oppose the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline (CGL) with a ‘no more dirty banks’ campaign. But CGL has the support of the 20 First Nations who live along the pipeline corridor. And 16 of the 20 signed a equity agreement with TC Energy giving them a 10% stake in the project. They did this because the Coastal Gaslink project will benefit their communities. Does Hollywood really want to undermine the sovereignty of these 20 First Nations by opposing their decision to support the CGL pipeline?

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Aboriginal ownership in natural resource projects is becoming the norm across Canada. In September, Enbridge signed a major ownership deal with 23 First Nations and Métis communities. The more we work with industry, the more opportunities there are for our communities to own resource projects. The sentiment coming from Hollywood celebrities goes directly against the will of our people and their desire to own such projects.

Hollywood does not understand the poverty experienced by many Indigenous communities. Added to the historic wrongs committed by the Canadian state and the effects of intergenerational trauma, Hollywood injecting itself into our affairs only makes matters worse.

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As Chief of the Flying Durst First Nation, I witnessed the poverty our people experienced on reserve. It was my responsibility to keep our people safe. One way to reduce poverty on the reserve is to develop our natural resources. Aboriginal communities cannot rely solely on government assistance. Own-source revenue is the best way to provide a better future for our people.

True self-determination means that it is up to Indigenous communities to determine whether a project is in our best interest. Not Hollywood celebrities. All we ask is that Hollywood actors stop speaking on our behalf. You don’t know our struggles and you haven’t lived our experiences. Our indigenous communities know what is best for us and many have taken the side of resource development. We want a better future for our employees and this is best achieved by engaging with the industry on ownership opportunities.

Robert Merasty is the Executive Director of the Indigenous Resource Network.

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