Actor Jane Fond and Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam speak to reporters

BC VIEWS: Fake news is all around us

Jane Fonda's tour of Fort McMurray, latest well-publicized Gitxsan dissident lawsuit the latest examples of our fake news

“Fake news,” as U.S. president-elect Donald Trump and his detractors have taken to calling it, isn’t new.

It spreads more quickly these days, thanks to social media that allow people to tailor a brief message for emotional reaction, or simply promote a false story to people who wish it to be true.

It flourishes in an age where conventional news organizations have reduced revenues, shifted to Facebook and Google primarily, and more pressure to report quickly.

The visit of 79-year-old Hollywood actor Jane Fonda to fly over the oil sands of Fort McMurray last week is an example. Seeing the mining sites made her feel like her skin was being peeled away, she said, and this is clearly someone who has had work done on her skin.

Orchestrated by Greenpeace, this celebrity smear followed the script created for elderly rocker Neil Young three years ago. Like Young, Fonda was accompanied by Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam, who repeated unsubstantiated claims about rising cancer rates in his community.

That’s the really damaging fake news. Adam continues to call for further medical studies, knowing that intensive studies have been done, and they contradict him. TV news airs it because, hey, he’s with a celebrity.

Here in B.C., a lower-profile example unfolded last week. A carefully staged news conference in Vancouver introduced two Gitxsan hereditary chiefs, filing the latest lawsuit alleging lack of consultation on the Pacific Northwest LNG project. They claim the project is a threat to salmon runs.

Cue the quick-and-dirty media coverage: aboriginal opposition continues to mount against liquefied natural gas project, Gitxsan opposed, etc.

Their stated focus is the shipping terminal proposed for Lelu Island near Prince Rupert, but a closer look tells a different story.

First, Gitxsan territory is inland. Lelu Island is in Lax Kw’alaams territory, and its membership voted in favour of the terminal project last spring.

This is the fourth similar lawsuit, and all appear to be orchestrated by groups called Skeena Wild and Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition, which are funded by U.S. foundations. I wrote about their antics at the Lelu Island protest camp last summer, featuring a rifle-toting guy claiming to have spiked trees all over the island, slick videos that create an impression of destruction, and so forth.

The environment groups maintain a website that feeds out news releases, high definition video and photos from their news conferences. It’s just the thing for time-starved newsrooms, guiding them along a narrative of greedy, reckless resource development.

Meanwhile, nine of 10 Gitxsan hereditary chiefs who approved the gas pipeline route sent a letter to their members at the end of the year. It describes four years of study, the hiring of independent experts, and accommodation for one Gitxsan house group that refused to participate.

[See letter below]

It notes that there has been a buried gas pipeline through the territory since 1968, through Telkwa, past Smithers to Terrace. It has operated without harm to salmon, wildlife or Gitxsan traditions. But that pipeline was built without consent of the Gitxsan, unlike the current project.

For the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission pipeline, there are commitments of work for four Gitxsan companies, with 120 people already trained, and a trust fund for future generations.

The letter describes the principles of Gitxsan law, forbidding outsiders influencing activity in each house territory. A blockade in the Suskwa Valley, known as the Madii ‘Lii camp, run by Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition, is described as “trespassing without consent.”

But what most people get is fake news about a strong and growing grassroots opposition.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

Gitxsan PRGT Mailer Jan 2017 by Tom Fletcher on Scribd

Just Posted

Columbia Basin Trust offering business accelerator program

Trust seeking motivated companies for customized support and mentorship program

Trail military exercises provide crucial training

Exercise Sapper Crucible: ‘The nuts and bolts of what a soldier is’

VIDEO: SPCA ushers in new era with Castlegar facility

$2.69-million project had ribbon cutting on Friday

Thrums, Riondel, and Slocan, revisited

Place Names: Scottish author delighted by Thrums name origin

Last stand for Silver City summer

Fall officially arrives in Trail at 6:54 p.m. on Saturday

Conservation officer frees B.C. deer from flotation gear mishap

BC Conservation Officer Service is reminding residents to keep backyards clear of entanglements

Lions earn stunning 35-32 OT win over Ticats

Epic comeback lifts B.C. past Hamilton in CFL thriller

Czarnik nets 3 as Flames dump Canucks 5-2

Calgary picks up exhibition win over Vancouver

Ottawa to name new ambassador for women, peace and security, Freeland says

Chrystia Freeland also confirmed Canada would spend about $25 million to fund number of initiatives

‘A little bright spot:’ Ottawa residents rescue dog trapped beneath rubble

Freelance journalist says rescue of a dog trapped under rubble was happy ending amid chaos in Ottawa

B.C. deaf community wants different sign languages on federal accessibility act

Advocates also want Indigenous Sign Language to be recognized on the Indigenous Language Act

VIDEO: B.C.-born firefighter remembered by MP in emotional speech

Family asks first responders to look after one another in wake of suicide, growing concerns of PTSD

Airline has ‘close call’ with drone while en route to B.C. airport

Jazz Aviation reported the drone sighting near Vancouver to the RCMP and Transport Canada

Tragic accident claims life of B.C. toddler

Fundraising effort has been created to help mom and family

Most Read