Energy sector advocate wonders ‘who’s pulling the strings’ in opposing oil and gas projects in Canada

Stephen Buffalo feels there is a lot of misrepresentation around the resource sector and Indigenous people’s opposition to it.

Buffalo is the CEO and president of the Indian Resource Council, representing roughly 130 First Nation communities that are producing or have the potential to produce oil and gas.

“Without a doubt First Nations, oil and gas producing Nations are always cognizant of the environment and protecting the environment,” says Buffalo adding “so, when you see this activism, its somewhat challenging because we don’t know who’s speaking anymore.”

During this episode of Face to Face, Buffalo discusses opportunities and challenges in the energy sector, recent and ongoing protests and blockades and the Wet’suwet’en conflict.

“When you see 20 elected Chiefs give the authorization and that they want to work, they want to provide that economic opportunity for not only their people and the future of their people, I think that needs to be warranted, you know. I think we have to investigate that thoroughly,” says Buffalo.

“The hard part again is who’s really pulling the string here?”

Buffalo believes there are groups that want to land lock Canada’s natural resources and using environmental concerns to do it.

“And some of our people have been more or less taken, involved in that but spinning to a form that I want to protect mother earth,” says Buffalo.

Buffalo says he has heard of environmental groups coming on reserve and offering $300 per person and “$500 if they’re wearing feathers” to come out and participate in protests.

“We have to make sure we have proper representation because when we do want to fight for our rights, our character is not jeopardized,” says Buffalo.

Buffalo is also supportive of Indigenous groups that are looking at purchasing the Trans Mountain pipeline.

“The pipeline, in my view is safe.  When First Nations own it then they can protect it a lot better,” says Buffalo.

Buffalo says the fact is, in western Canada, oil and gas is all around First Nations and he believes its warranted they participate.

Buffalo says most of the communities are not trying to be “oil rich tycoons” they’re just trying to tackle issues of poverty, the opioid crisis, missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

“As we continue forward, 643 First Nations will not see very much increase in their federal funding under the Indian Act. So, we have to find a different way and economic development is probably our only way and for some of our communities it’s being involved in the sector.  And if that means partnering with a US based company operating out of Calgary, that’s what its going to be” says Buffalo.

According to Buffalo, the energy sector has employed more First Nations in Canada than any other sector, providing roughly 12,000 jobs.

“It really gives our people an opportunity to start working and providing for their families,” Buffalo says.