The Kamloops chapter of the Council of Canadians brought the award-winning documentary, Fractured Land, to TRU’s Irving K. Barber Centre on March 1.
Directed by Damien Gillis, who was present at the screening, and Fiona Rayher, Fractured Land follows the story of Caleb Behn, an indigenous lawyer of the Dene Nation, in his fight against the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry in B.C.’s far north.
Gillis started filming for Fractured Land in early 2011. At the time, the character who would come to be the documentary’s main focus acted simply as a guide for Gillis and his team in exploring the land used for oil and gas development in north-eastern B.C.
“We went on a little scouting mission with the fellow that went on to become the central character of our film. We didn’t even know that yet, we were just getting to know him and he was taking us on a tour having known the area,” Gillis said. “We got to see his world and it was soon thereafter that we realized there was a real story there and that it would make a lot more sense to tell a human story rather than an issue one.”
Originally an oil and gas officer, Behn entered law school after learning that despite his arguments against drilling operations on his people’s lands, the oil and gas conglomerates in the area would succeed no matter what.
Behn would eventually become a star and a voice for the unheard in B.C’s north, speaking at anti-fracking demonstrations in Vancouver and Calgary. He even travelled as far away as New Zealand to consult the Maori people after their successful halting of a major Shell Oil fracking operation in their territory.
Though the film specifically follows Behn in his fight against fracking, which is where a high-pressure water, sand and chemical mixture is injected deep in the earth to release gas trapped in rock deposits, it also speaks to broader issues within the oil and gas industry in general, Gillis said.
“Only 0.1 per cent of our provincial revenue comes from the oil and gas sector,” Gillis said. “It is way less significant than we are led to believe.”
Gillis, who has been following trends in the oil and gas industries for years, believes focusing on fossil fuels is a “foolish endeavour,” especially given that the supply of these resources is not endless and that the environment can no longer handle such abuse.
Furthermore, Gillis believes that institutions like TRU should start moving away from training students, specifically trades students, for jobs in the oil and gas sector.
“You can do all the training you want, but if the job isn’t going to be there at the end of the day, then you have kind of wasted everyone’s time and a whole lot of money,” Gillis said. “And you’ve also given false hope or false promise to a young student who is looking to build a career for the future.”
Instead, Gillis said, TRU should be adopting programs to train students in renewable energy fields or helping to retrain existing energy sector workers from the oil and gas industries for the renewable industry instead.
“It doesn’t take very different skills,” Gillis said. “A welder can weld a pipe or he can weld a wind turbine together. An electrician can wire up an oil sands plant or he can wire up a solar installation. So if you are gonna build programs in a school, and it takes a few years to do that, I’d rather see it going towards something that has got a real future to it.”