First Nations LNG Alliance CEO shares hopes for sustainable development with Coalition forum

First Nations LNG Alliance CEO Karen Ogen-Toews gives a presentation to the NEBCRMC forum in February. Photo by Chris Newton

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — It was a packed house at the Pomeroy Hotel for the Northeast B.C. Resource Municipalities Coalition symposium on LNG development last Wednesday.

The symposium featured discussions to gather information and feedback from residents in the Northeast after the provincial government announced that it wants to create a new Energy Roadmap for the province. After a presentation on how Northeast B.C. can contribute to the new Energy Roadmap, a panel discussion that included Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman lead the conversation on ways that Northeast B.C. can help better educate B.C. residents about the provincial energy sector.

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The forum featured two keynote speakers: BC LNG Alliance President and CEO David Keane, as well as First Nations LNG Alliance CEO Karen Ogen-Toews. Ogen-Toews, who formerly served as chief of the Wet’suwet”n First Nation, gave a presentation on ways that Canadians can better develop the country’s natural resources, while also fostering better relations with First Nations. Ogen-Toews explained that her background as a social worker has given her a unique perspective on ways that resource development can benefit peoples of all backgrounds that are involved.

“I cannot emphasizes enough how critical it is for everyone involved to feel like they’re winning. Coming from a social work perspective, seeing the high rates of our people incarcerated, the social issues, the poverty. At some point you get tired of doing that job. It’s like you’re in a spinning wheel and you’re going nowhere because these social issues are continuous.”

Ogan-Toews told the crowd that an important question that all parties to resource development need to ask is how things can be done differently than in the past. She explained that having previously led her community meant she needed to make difficult decisions that she felt were correct, despite opposition.

“The are a lot of naysayers, there is a lot of opposition. You’re not going to make everybody happy. In my role with the First Nations LNG Alliance, that’s part of what I’m trying to do: to do the right thing for our people. If we can get those economic wheels turning for our communities and bring in revenue, that will help address some of the social issues that we deal with on a daily basis. We want to be able to increase the quality of life for our people. When you look at the rest of Canada and you look at First Nations, our quality of life is less than the average Canadian citizen’s. We want to be able to level the playing fields. We want to see more of our people in post-secondary, being teachers, nurses, doctors.”

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