Real Help for Indigenous Youth

Commentary, Aboriginal Futures, Brian Giesbrecht

Last week there was yet another “round dance” held at Portage and Main, this one was in support of the “hereditary chiefs” of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation blocking authorized construction of a natural gas pipeline in northern British Columbia. In spite of a court injunction telling them to desist, they are preparing for a long and protracted struggle, “having no intention of allowing Wet’suwet’en sovereignty to be violated”.

This is in spite of the fact that the other 20 First Nations communities along the pipeline route have agreed to TransCanada‘s $40 billion Coastal GasLink pipeline project to its LNG Kitimat destination. The project, which would bring liquefied natural gas to countries now depending on coal for their electricity needs, is also vitally important to the British Columbia and Canadian economies (including the First Nations communities that have signed on, needing the employment and revenue it promises). 

While the project is a win-win for the province, the country, the environment, and B.C.’s First Nations, the Wet’suwet’en “hereditary chiefs” don’t see it that way. What is “traditional land” is not clear, as many groups claim the same Crown land (land that in theory belongs to all of us). It is also unclear who is funding these “hereditary chiefs.” Researcher Vivian Krause’s investigative work has uncovered financial ties between disparate groups and the “hereditary chiefs”. It is not known what will happen next in this long and ruinously expensive battle to bring this project to completion.

However, it is a stunning illustration of the chaos that now exists in Canada’s vital natural resources sector. A combination of ideological governments, an activist Supreme Court, and aggressive Indigenous claims – fueled by taxpayer money – has made it seemingly virtually impossible to develop Canada’s vast natural resources. 

Between recent legal inventions like “duty to consult” and “Aboriginal title”, and the reckless adoption by governments of such perilous ideas, it has become a nightmare for anyone trying to make Canada more prosperous.

Onerous court decisions and politically-motivated environmental restrictions have stopped projects cold, causing investors and developers to head to greener pastures in more welcoming countries. Canada is losing well-paying jobs, bringing higher government deficits, a weak dollar, and higher inflation. And all of this has done nothing to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of marginalized Indigenous people stuck in dependent First Nations communities. 

Although some people are making big money out of the skirmishes, including the expensive law firms directing the show, the large gap that exists between the majority of Indigenous people and the mainstream population hasn’t narrowed at all. The Indigenous underclass remains unemployed and dependent, while demonstrations, court battles, and endless victim inquiries go on and on. 

They need real jobs, not pressure to support questionable demonstrations. Just like other rural Canadians, most young Indigenous people increasingly have to prepare themselves for life in a high-tech urban environment. While Indigenous youth can keep as much of their cultural identity as they like, making themselves employable should be their number one concern.

While the ‘culture wars’ are going on around them, on the streets, courts and legislatures, young Indigenous people are best advised to avoid those distractions. Instead, they should concentrate on the only formula for success that works for everyone: see to your education, work hard, and go where the jobs are.



Brian Giesbrecht, a retired judge, is a senior fellow at Frontier Centre for Public Policy