Polarization in resource industry news, Métis expert says
Updated: Dec 23, 2022
It is now difficult — if not impossible — for young people in B.C. to get balanced, factual information about resource development due to anti-industry bias on social media and in the mainstream press, says a prominent Indigenous lawyer.
“I don’t even know if they can,” said Barbara Collins, a partner in the Vancouver office of McMillan LLP, who specializes in corporate finance and securities law, often linked to resource industries. “I’m a bit cynical about this.”
Collins, who is Métis, said “getting the message out” about the importance of resources is “tough.”
“The media is so polarized and unless you are on this page, you don’t want to hear what anyone else has to say and it’s even more siloed now than it was before,” she said. “If you don’t want to have a new iPhone, you don’t want to have a new house then we should stop mining, you know, we should stop cutting down forests. We need those resources to live and people don’t understand that.”
A global consulting firm, McKinsey and Company, recently reported, even electric cars have a substantial natural resources requirement, such as mining cobalt and lithium for their batteries.
Collins said young people “have to want to hear” about the importance of resource development.
“It’s basically educating everybody around them, too, because anything on social media is going to be biased,” she said. “They are not going to learn from social media. It’s going to be propaganda. It’s going to be, ‘environmentalism is bad because it’s stopping jobs’ or the environmentalists, who say you’ve got to stop the mining because it’s hurting the planet.”
Groups such as FORED BC play an important role in educating people that “we need those resources to live,” she added.
Collins said it is also important for people in urban areas of B.C. to understand that thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of economic activity related to resource development occur in their communities.
“This is where the head offices are,” she said. “This is where the . . . management of these companies are. The accounting, the finance, the executives, the HR people, they’re all here.”
“Unfortunately, the companies don’t necessarily want to, like, pop their heads up and — ‘Hey, we’re here’ — because I remember there were a lot of protests, even Goldcorp right at their head office protesting the environmental impact of what they’re doing. So, it’s a bit frustrating that people don’t understand that it is business and we’re here, but we’re not out in the boonies.”
Natural resource revenues and the taxes they generate pay for our health care, schools and other social programs.
Collins said it’s critical for Indigenous people, especially those living on reserves in the northern part of the country, to get involved in resource industries. FORED already works closely with the Indigenous Resource Network on that very subject.
“They are the ones being impacted environmentally and also financially by decisions made so they should definitely be involved,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that some of the bad press can say that they don’t want anything to happen over their land. I think they do, but they want it done well.”
“I really admire the Osoyoos band, how they’ve built Spirit Ridge and they are very business-minded and they are using their resources properly and it’s for their financial benefit,” Collins said. “I’m an admirer. I wish the other ones would look at them and say, ‘We can work with everybody. We can take our share of the profits, we can watch the environment around our own area at the same time.’ But if you’re not involved or just like saying no to everything, then that’s not a way to solve any of the issues.”
She said business leaders “don’t really care who is getting the benefit as long as they can move forward and know what the goalposts are.”
Companies do not care if they are paying, for example, stumpage fees (a cost for each tree removed) for logging to governments or to native bands “as long as we are sort of moving forward . . . just tell us who we have to work with.” #metis #indigenous #lawyers #law #lawyer #legal #lawfirm #lawyerlife #lawyersofinstagram #attorney #lawschool #attorneys #lawstudent #justice #advocate #supremecourt #lawstudents #legalnews #lawyering #court #attorneyatlaw #litigation #indianlaw #lawyerslife #judiciary