Indigenous supporters cheer on pipelines at Calgary energy rally

A few Indigenous participants who were among the thousands at a pro-energy and pipeline demonstration in Calgary on Tuesday say they hope to send a message to Ottawa that not all First Nations are aligned against Canada's oil and gas industry.

The rally was hosted in part by Canada Action, as part of the Global Petroleum Show being held until Thursday at the BMO Centre.

Many Indigenous supporters were at the rally to express support for First Nation groups that are proposing to take an equity stake in the planned Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

The federal government bought the project last summer for $4.5 billion from Kinder Morgan after the company expressed dissatisfaction with the slow pace of the approval process.

Alberta group Iron Coalition said last week it has invited 47 First Nations and about 60 Métis organizations in the province to sign up for its effort to buy a stake in TMX of between 50 and 100 per cent.

And in B.C., a consortium called Project Reconciliation is inviting Indigenous participation from B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan in a $6.8-billion bid for a 51 per cent stake in the pipeline.

Livia Manywounds/CBC

"There are over 400 chiefs in this country that approve of the industry and want to work with the industry to get their people out of poverty," said Dale Swampy, president of the National Coalition of Chiefs.

He describes the group as "pro-development, industry friendly chiefs" and wants to make it clear that not all First Nations are against oil and gas development.

Gary Mar, CEO of the Petroleum Services Association of Canada (PSAC), said it's important that these voices in the Indigenous communities be heard.

"A rising tide should lift all boats, it shouldn't just be lifting yachts, and to lift our First Nations communities into higher income brackets so that we share wealth with them, I think is a very, very important principle," he said.

Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press

Opposing views

Heather Lucier was part of a small counter-protest at the event, where a few Indigenous people gathered to rally against pipelines against a sea of supporters.

Heather Lucier

"We don't own the land, we borrow it from the next seven generations," said Lucier, who was part of a group of three people protesting.

"I feel like Albertans really need to realize that it's a non-renewable resource and there are cleaner energy to be had out there," she said.

Lucier added that with many people working for oil and gas companies it can be hard to drum up numbers for an anti-pipeline protest in Calgary.