Two sides trying to sway public opinion and federal approval of Teck’s Frontier mine met at the company’s office in downtown Calgary Wednesday morning.
“There is very much division in the Indigenous community over this, so I do understand that some Indigenous groups have come forward, but I do know even within those Indigenous groups there is still dissent,” Extinction Rebellion spokesperson Sarah Flynn said.
“As long as colonial populations are putting pressure on Indigenous territories for resource development, there will always be those divisions. “
Canada Action, a non-partisan pro-energy group, ran a counter-demonstration in favour of the project at the same time and location.
“We are here today to spread a message that we should reward environmental innovation in Canada and have this Teck Frontier project approved,” Canada Action spokesperson Andie Johnstone said. “The Teck Frontier project is actually one of the most innovative of its kind.
“It has record-breaking actions and technology for lowering [greenhouse gas] emissions and also minimizing water usage … We should be celebrating this project.”
The federal government has until the end of February to make a decision on approving Teck’s Frontier mine under the Environmental Assessment Act.
Ron Quintal, president of the Fort McKay Métis Nation, says the 14 Indigenous communities most affected have already endorsed the project.
“We’re sending a clear message to Ottawa, to Prime Minister [Justin} Trudeau and the environment minister that we believe this project needs to go ahead.
“It’s not just built around environmental sustainability, it’s built around fiscal sustainability as well from our perspective,” Quintal added. “We are in no way pro-oil — we are pro-sustainable development.”
If approved, the Teck Frontier mine — a $20.6 billion project — is expected to produce 260,000 barrels of oil a day and more than four-million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year for 40 years.
It’s also expected to generate close to $70 billion in taxes and royalty revenue for both the federal and provincial governments.
Jack Mintz from the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary said federal approval of the project is not a given.
“When you look at the polls in Canada, people want to see action on climate change, and I think even here in Alberta that’s the case,” Mintz said. “But I think they are also not opposing fossil fuel developments.”
Mintz said finding the balance between the two is the challenge.
“I think that is the issue: how do you square and put into practice the concept of responsible development? Does it mean no development? Or does it mean some development, but done with ideas of trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?”
– With files from The Canadian Press