FAIR Alberta has arranged an opportunity to speak with Mr. Ellis Ross on Feb 21, 2023. Mr. Ross is an advocate for Indigenous agency as modeled by his governance of the Haisla Nation. He currently serves as the MLA for the Skeena region in British Columbia. He was first elected in 2017 and re-elected in 2020. He also currently serves as the official opposition critic for LNG and Resource Opportunities and is a Member of the Select Standing Committee on Legislative Initiatives.
In 2003, the Haisla Nation Council requested that he become their first full-time councillor. Ellis served in this position until 2011 when he was elected Chief Councillor of the Haisla Nation, and was re-elected by acclamation in 2013. During his tenure, he inked a complex deal in which the Haisla agreed to collaborate on a 670-km natural gas pipeline from the Peace River district to Haisla territory. This led the Haisla Nation to economic prosperity and independence. At the same time, Ellis used these deals to help address environmental issues, such as the Kitimat River rehabilitation program.
Ellis will not hesitate to call out those who disingenuously use First Nations for their own agendas. When a very famous movie star took to Twitter in support of illegal protestors and to condemn the Pipeline project, Ellis kindly took a moment to provide some much needed context. “….the revenues from resource development offer First Nations a path to economic self-determination — a future free from the cold, damp heavy blanket of the welfare state. British Columbia is the most environmentally conscious jurisdiction to extract resources from in the world. Full stop.” In the leadup to Canada Day 2021, and the increasing push to cancel celebrations, Ellis emphasized that it is better to build, rather than teardown.
In a 2014 interview with National Geographic, Ellis speaks to the Indian Act and how the Haisla Nation came to find itself at the center of Canada’s energy and international commerce debate. “…..there is really nothing in existence that works to get us out of dependence….. When I looked at the issues regarding the Indian Act and all the specific claims we have with Canada and treaty negotiations, all I saw was limitations. But when I looked at economic development either individually on our own, or used the projects proposed to us to springboard off of, I saw no limitations.“
In a recent Facebook post, Ellis shared his thoughts on the Indian Act, “The Indian Act-what is it-why is it still here and why didn’t it affect Haisla (my band)?”. In another post, Ellis expands on how UNDRIP affects BC First Nations groups, and why he does not support it.
In a country that is in a moment of seemingly more and more divisive social and political strife, it is at times hard to see through the increasingly muddy waters. Many leaders, political and otherwise, offer increasingly empty rhetoric. Canada needs leaders who are not afraid to speak courageously on difficult topics. To quote Glenn Loury, “Who will speak for compromise and common sense? Who will insist we speak plainly, and tell the truth on difficult matters?”
Ellis is one of these people. He has shone a light through those waters by shouldering his and his community’s burdens and taking on as much responsibility as he possibly could. He has advocated for meaningful jobs as a means out of poverty, and it has strengthened his communities as a result.
Ellis is also a proud father of two daughters and a proud grandfather.