Why is the BC NDP ignoring the environmental racism and harms caused by fracking?

May 5, 2022 | 42-3, Blog, Governance, Indigenous, Legislature, Question Period, Video | 1 comment

Both the BC NDP and BC Liberals support gas liquefaction for the export market. However, a growing body of research is showing that fracking, the process to extract gas from the ground, causes significant harm to human health.

Indigenous communities, children and pregnant people are disproportionately impacted by the fracking industry, meanwhile the BC NDP government continues to support and subsidize the expansion of gas extraction by fracking.

This is a form of environmental racism.

Minister Rankin states that they are “rolling up their sleeves” as a result of the Blueberry River decision. So this government is only seized with this issue because they lost a decision in the Courts. Doesn’t this make the reality Indigenous People face in their home communities worse?

[Transcript]

A. Olsen:

Today is the national day of awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, also known as Red Dress Day. Earlier this week, this assembly celebrated a new anti-racism data collection initiative, a new bill. Yesterday afternoon, I celebrated that initiative.

I wish that this B.C. NDP government’s commitment extended to environmental racism. In northern B.C., spurred on by this government’s record-setting investment and subsidization of the liquefied gas industry, fracking is widespread.

We’re learning about the tragic and deadly consequences of fracking. We’re learning more and more about it every day. Emissions of chemicals that cause and exacerbate birth defects, rare cancers and asthma. These are disproportionately impacting Indigenous communities. One study from the U.S. found that children born near fracking sites were 25 percent more likely to be born at low birth weights, or less than 5.5 lbs. They found an increased risk of childhood mortality and poorer educational outcomes.

A lead author from the Nobel Peace Prize–winning group called Physicians for Social Responsibility called fracking: “The worst thing I’ve ever seen.”

To the Premier: does he care that his government is actively engaged in environmental racism against Indigenous communities, particularly Indigenous children and pregnant people?

Hon. M. Rankin:

Thank you to my colleague for Saanich North and the Islands for the question. In the northeast of British Columbia where the fracking activity to which he refers primarily occurs, we are engaged in addressing a decision, an historic decision of the B.C. Supreme Court, namely the Yahey decision. We are doing so with all the treaty 8 nations who the judge concluded had had their treaty 8 rights violated through oil and gas activity.

We are engaged in a series of initiatives to heal the land and to do some of the things that the member suggests need to be done. We are doing that in close collaboration and negotiation — not with the victor in that litigation, namely the Blueberry River First Nations — but all the other treaty 8 nations. We are consulting widely with industry, and we working with local governments to make sure we get it right.

Mr. Speaker:

Member for Saanich North and the Islands, supplemental.

A. Olsen:

There is nothing ethical about LNG development. Neither the government nor the official opposition grasp that. Not only is LNG Canada the single largest point source of emissions in this province — going to be — undermining any efforts that this government is making to combat the climate crisis, it’s disproportionately impacting Indigenous people. It’s environmental racism.

Researchers at the University of Toronto are undertaking further study of the direct impacts of fracking on fetal health, and more research is needed. But instead of contributing to that, the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission just criticized the existing study. Nobody seems to care about the fact that this study of pregnant people found higher contaminant levels in homes near fracking sites and that the highest levels of exposure were found among Indigenous pregnant people who participated.

[10:45 a.m.]

Indigenous participants’ homes showed notably higher concentration of chloroform, acetone and decanal. There were higher levels of trihalomethane in their tap water. My question, again, is to the Premier. How does the Premier reconcile his commitments to Indigenous people, while ramping up this fracked gas development that is clearly putting the lives of Indigenous children and pregnant people at risk?

Hon. M. Rankin:

I think it is true that there has been a disproportionate impact on Indigenous peoples in the northeast, and that, of course, was the conclusion of Madame Justice Burke in the Yahey decision, to which I previously referred. That is why, because of that treaty being violated over 100 years or more, we are rolling up our sleeves and doing what the court asked that we do. In doing so, we will address the impacts that the member refers to. These impacts are real. We are not shying away from that.

Indeed, we’re taking the kind of steps in partnership with industry — in partnership with local government — to make sure that we have a viable northeast economy, but that the balance is restruck in a way that works for everyone. Those of us who benefit from that activity in the south, but particularly to address the impacts on those who suffer in the northeast from those consequences. It’s not going to be a simple solution, but it’s an overdue one, and we’re rolling up our sleeves and doing that hard work now.

1 Comment

  1. Nancy Wigen

    The fracking should stop, period ! The whole of LNG including the Coastal Gas Link pipe line and the violation of indigenous land and abuse of the people trying to protect it should stop right now. The fact that our tax money that should be meeting our many needs, is still being used to subsidize the fracking and transport and proposed export of fracked gas is so extremely offensive to me, I hope this government is turned out of office. The North should have an agricultural economy with the precious fertile land and microclimate of the Peace River Valley. Our future needs to address the Climate Crisis with phase-out of fossil fuels and production of good locally produced food, clean water and good health for indigenous people and all the people of the North. We need a just transition to a clean, green economy.

    Reply

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