Lawyer Caleb Behn is featured in a film exploring the tensions between development and traditional ways of living in northeastern B.C.

Development explored in award-winning film

Damian Gillis arrives in town to showcase his new film that follows a young First Nations lawyer's coming of age in northeastern B.C.

Last time filmmaker and journalist Damian Gillis was in Terrace for a public talk it was over two years ago during the peak period of speculation on the liquefied natural gas industry, when houses were selling like hot cakes, it was almost impossible to rent accommodation and the area seemed poised to become an energy superpower like Fort McMurray.

Gillis called bluff at the time, basing his claims on research from what he called the most reliable sources.

“I predicted that the Asian price for LNG would fall to eight or nine dollars [per million British thermal units] and in fact it’s about 7.5 right now,” he said last week of a glut on the market of the commodity which, in turn, has given pause to many projects planned in B.C.

Gillis has now returned to the north to tour his new film Fractured Land which he co-directed with Fiona Rayher, a project completed over four years, a film which won top B.C. film at the Vancouver Film Festival this year, and which was a finalist at Toronto’s Hot Docs festival.

Gillis has other research to talk about as well – saying that the greenhouse gas emissions predicted from a liquefied natural gas industry far outweigh the “cleanest fuel” label used by the provincial government and the industry.

“The government has referred to LNG as the cleanest fossil fuel on the planet and in the film we juxtapose those comments by Premier [Christy Clark] at the big global conference in Vancouver with those of one of the acknowledged top experts on the climate effects of fracking,” said Gillis.

“That expert, from Cornell university in the United States, said once you take into account the escaped methane emissions from the fracking process and the piping and then when you take that gas and burn it to create the power to cool it into a liquid and then burn more of it to power the tanker to take you to Japan or China, when you put that all together it is quite reasonable to say that it’s the dirtiest fossil fuel that has ever been invented, especially from the climate perspective,” Gillis continued.

Despite his own pointed view, Gillis says the movie really isn’t an issue-first, hit-you-over-the-head type of environmentalist film, but rather a coming of age documentary about a young First Nations man, now-lawyer Caleb Behn, who is caught between the forces of industrialization and the tradition of his people to hunt and live off the land in the Peace region of northeastern B.C.

With Gillis’s mother and other family having grown up in the Peace, and with his own grandfather having trapped game in the area and been friends with First Nations there, he decided to explore the importance of Treaty 8 in guiding current land claims spearheaded by northeastern B.C. First Nations in the area, for whom Behn in fact does law work.

“We paint a picture of the historical waves of development that have washed over the Peace Valley over the last century since the treaty,” said Gillis. “And how that has amounted to a breaking of the fundamental promise that underlies the whole Treaty 8 which is that those First Nations would be able to continue practising their traditions on the land as though contact had never occurred. It was supposed to be much more of a harmonious sharing of the land between settlers and First Nations.”

A question and answer period with Gillis will follow the screening of Fractured Land which takes place Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. in the Sportsplex Banquet Room.